A Idioms

This A idioms list will be continually updated with new definitions and examples, quizzes and other information to help you learn and remember these expressions.

Note: Each idiomatic expression does not always start  with the letter “a.” This list is organized to to include idioms whose main subject or action word starts with the letter “a.”

List of A Idioms


from A to Z:  to include everything. 

Example:  Our travel agent planned our vacation from A to Z, including hotels, transportation, meals and sightseeing.


able to do (something) with one’s eyes closed/shut:   to be able to do something easily and effortlessly. 

Example:  She’s such a good cook she can  practically cook.

able to do (something) blindfolded:  to be able to do something easily and effortlessly.  

Example:  I’ve been driving a motorcycle so many years I could.


about time:  a moment that should happen now or that should have happened previously (before).  

Example:  It’s about time  for dinner so please go and wash your hands and then sit at the table.

about to (do something):  to be ready or planning to do something.

Example:  I was about to raise my hand in class when Sally shouted out the answer.


above all (else):  the most important thing.

Example:   He loves to drink milk above all else, even more than juice or soda.

above the law:  not having to obey the law or rules.

Example:  Our manager thinks he’s above the law, coming in late every morning but yelling at us if we’re even.

above suspicion:  not believed to have done something wrong. 

Example:  My parents always think my sister is above suspicion because she’s the oldest but usually.

none of the above:  all of the items or factors listed before something else.   

Example:  Do you want coffee, tea, juice or none of the above?


absent-minded:  not carefully remembering or paying attention.

Example:  My mother’s so absent-minded she not only loses her keys but she also forgets where.


take (something) into account:  to carefully think about or consider something.

Example:  We thought we could drive to the beach in two hours but we didn’t take Friday traffic into account.


act one’s age:  to behave in a way that is right or appropriate for a particular age.

Example:  Our 12-year old refuses to act her age and continues to suck her thumb.

act out:  to behave badly, especially when angry.

Example:  My younger brother always acts out  when he doesn’t get to watch cartoons in the morning.

act up:  (1) to behave badly; (2) to activate or start (especially describing illnesses or problems).

Example:  My daughter always acts up at the supermarket when.

a tough act to follow:  to be so good that the next thing after it doesn’t seem as good in comparison.

Example:  I hope the teacher lets me give my speech first because.

catch someone in the act:  to see or discover someone at the moment they are doing something wrong.

Example:  I tried to quietly walk in the back door to the office because.

clean up one’s act:  to start behaving well or better than before.

Example:  My parents said if I don’t clean up my act and get better grades I won’t be able to continue.

get one’s act together:  to improve poor or bad behavior.

Example:  After skipping class and playing video games my first year in college, I got my act together and.


in action:  working or in progress.

Example:  This Italian restaurant has an open kitchen so you can see the chef in action throwing pizza dough in the air.

take action:  to do or start something.

Example:  After years of complaining, the secretary finally took action and quit her job.

a piece of the action:  to share part of the advantages or profits of something important that’s happening.

Example:  When my brother saw how much money I was making babysitting he wanted a piece of the action.

actions speak louder than words:  what someone does is more important than what they say.

Example:  If you love me, show me—actions speak louder than words.


add up / add up to (something):  to signify or result in something.

Example:  Studying just a few new words a day will add up to a huge vocabulary in just a year.


without further ado:  without talking more about something.

Example:  Without further ado, close your books and let’s begin the test.


take advantage (of something or someone):

to use an opportunity or circumstance to get or achieve something.  

Example:  My roommate takes advantage of my dislike.


afraid of one’s own shadow:  to be very frightened (so frightened that the individual would jump if they saw their own shadow in the sun).  

Example:  My German Shepard may look like a guard dog but in reality he’s afraid of his own shadow.


after all is said and done:  after everything has finally happened or been said.

Example:  After all is said and done, it was a great holiday even though the airline lost our luggage.

after the fact:  after something has already happened.

Example:  We had to write to the airline after the fact because we forgot to bring our frequent flyer membership.


against one’s will:  without someone’s agreement.

Example:  My father wants me to marry someone he chooses but I will never get married against my will.

against the clock:  in a hurry or trying to complete something before a specific time.

Example:  We worked against the clock to finish the report before the end of the day.

against time:  trying to finish something before a certain time or deadline.

Example:  I hate rushing against time but my manager never gives me the information I need.


ahead of time:  early or before something is required.

Example:  I always arrive ahead of time to all of my appointments to prevent stress.

ahead of the game:  in a position in front of others or in an advantageous position.

Example:  I am always taking new training courses so I can stay ahead of the game.


clear the air:  to explain something to remove doubts or misunderstanding about something.

Example:  I asked my supervisor for a meeting so I could clear the air.

disappear / vanish into thin air:  to be gone quickly and completely.

Example:  When I asked my roommates to help me clean our apartment everyone vanished into thin air.

in the air:  everywhere; able to be noticed or felt.

Example:  Spring is in the air, the birds are chirping and the trees are blooming.

off the air:  not currently being broadcast on the radio or television.

Example:  The television announcers seemed to be happy colleagues but off the air they were bitter.

on the air:  broadcasting on the television or radio.

Example:  There are several Spanish television programs on the air on AM radio.

air one’s dirty laundry (in public):  to talk about something that should be kept private.

Example:  I hate going to family reunions because my uncle always airs his dirty laundry in public.

out of thin air:   from nowhere, from nothing.

Example:  When my students are late for class they make up excuses out of thin air.

up in the air:  not decided, developed or finalized.

Example:  Our plans for the summer holiday are still up in the air  because my boss hasn’t approved my vacation request.

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rolling in the aisles:  laughing loudly or uncontrollably.

Example:  We went to the comedy club last night and one of the comedians had everyone rolling in the aisles.


alive and kicking:  alive and well (healthy), in working condition.

Example:  I’ve been driving my car every day for fifteen years but it’s still alive and kicking.


all along:  the entire or whole time.

Example:  I got divorced because my husband was cheating on me all along with his old girlfriend.

all at once:  happening suddenly or at one time.

Example:  It was really sunny when we started our walk but all at once the sky turned dark grey and it started raining really hard.

all ears:  to listen carefully and attentively.

Example:  Everyone on the plane was all ears when pilot said we had to make an emergency landing.

all eyes are on something / someone:  everyone is carefully watching something to see what will happen.

Example:  Whenever I go out with my friend Sally, who's a model, all eyes are on us.

all thumbs:  clumsy or awkward in doing or using something.

Example:  I’m all thumbs with arts and crafts but my daughter is great at it.

all very well:  good but not good enough.

Example:  It’s all very well that you’re eating better but you also have to exercise if you want to lose weight.

at all:  (1) in any condition or way; (2) to any degree or extent.

Example:  My adviser was not at all happy with my research paper because it lacked primary sources.


leave someone at the alter:  to leave someone just before the marriage is supposed to happen.

Example:  What a jerk! I cannot believe he left her at the alter. How humiliating!


ants in one's pants:  to be so excited, nervous or anxious about something that it's hard to be still and calm.

Example:  It's been raining for five days in a row and my kids really have ants in their pants from staying inside all day.

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