B Idioms

Designed text: "D" idioms, definitions and examples

This B idioms list has idiomatic expressions with words beginning with the letter B. "In brief," I've provided numerous important idioms starting with the letter "b" with lots of examples to help you learn more easily. So "breathe easier" and let's get started!

This list will be frequently 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 “b.” This list is organized to include idioms whose main subject or action word starts with the letter “b.”

List of B Idioms


back away from (something/someone):   to move away from something or stop supporting something.

  • Example:  Our supervisor wanted us to start working on Sundays but but after everyone complained he backed away from the idea.

back down (from something/someone):  to not continue with a threat to do something.  

  • Example:The workers backed down from their plan to go on strike when the company director began to negotiate with them.

back off:  to not do something you planned on doing.

  • Example:  I worked really hard on the project for the past two weeks but my boss told me to back off it until the clients have paid their invoice.

back on one’s feet:  to be healthy again after sickness.

  • Example:  I couldn’t do anything for two weeks while I had the flu but now I’m back on my feet.

back out (of something):  to not completely finish something one promised to do.

  • Example:  My friend and I were supposed to go on holiday together but she backed out at the last minute.

back to back:  one thing immediately happening after another thing.

  • Example:  On Wednesdays, I’m really busy because I have four classes back to back.

back to square one:  to be back at the starting point of something.

  • Example:  I picked up all the leaves and branches from my lawn yesterday but there was a storm last night and now I’m back to square one.

behind one’s back:  something happening when someone is not present.

  • Example: My colleague is really nice to me but I don’t trust him because I know he talks negatively about me behind my back.

stab someone in the back:  to cause someone harm or do something negatively to someone.

  • Example:  I cannot believe my friend stabbed me in the back by telling my teacher I wasn’t really sick when I stayed home yesterday.

watch your back:  to be careful to notice what’s happening around you.

  • Example:  I have to watch my back at this office because people are unfriendly and competitive.


not (half) bad:  good enough or reasonably good.

  • Example: Let's eat in the university cafeteria. The food is not half bad  and the price is great.

bad blood (between people):  bad or unfriendly relationships between people or groups of people.

  • Example:  There’s been bad blood between two of my best friends since they fought over the same girl this summer and now I have to see them separately.

bad hair day:  a day when everything isn’t going well (such as when it’s hard to style your hair the way you want it to be).

  • Example:  Sorry I can't go out—I’m having a bad hair day.

bad mouth (someone) to say bad things about someone.

  • Example:  I heard you were bad mouthing me  so if you have a problem tell me right now.


have bag’s under one’s eyes:  to have dark puffy circles under the eyes.

  • Example:  I have bags under my eyes because I was watching the football game last night and only slept three hours.

pack someone’s bags:  to permanently leave or go away from a place.

  • Example:  If your roommates never clean up, eat all your food and make a lot of noise, maybe it would be better if you packed your bags.


ball in someone’s court:  the moment when someone needs to take the next action, move or get an answer from someone else.

  • Example:  I filled out the application and provided all the information they asked for so now the ball's in their court and all I can do is wait.

drop the ball:  to stop working on something before a goal or project is completed.

  • Example:  We lost the contract when I went on vacation because my coworkers dropped the ball and didn’t submit all the documents for the proposal.

start/get the ball rolling:  to begin or start something.

  • Example:  Don't wait until spring to start exercising. Just get the ball rolling now by walking the seven blocks from the metro to your office each day instead of taking the bus.

have a ball:  to have a fun or enjoyable time.

  • Example:  I used to hate exercise but I started taking dance lessons and now I’m exercising and having a ball at the same time.

on the ball:  to be alert, focused and able to react to something quickly.

  • Example:  The students in my advanced placement classes are really on the ball so I have to be careful.


bang for the buck:  to have good value for money spent. (note: in English the word "buck" is slang for a dollar).

  • Example:  I recommend you buy this television because it has the best bang for the buck.

bang one’s head against the wall:  to feel frustrated trying to do something that’s not possible.

  • Example:  I try to suggest new projects each week at the staff meeting but I feel like I’m banging my head against the wall because no one listens to me.


bank on something:  to depend on or trust something.

  • Example:  When your baby is born you can bank on me for advice and babysitting help.

break the bank:  to be too costly or expensive.

  • Example:  These days you can easily buy a smart phone without breaking the bank.


drive a hard bargain:  to be good at negotiating a beneficial arrangement.

  • Example:  I was able to drive a hard bargain and get a higher salary and an extra week of vacation because I had a lot more experience than the other candidates.

more than someone/something bargained for:  to get something in addition to what was expected.

  • Example:  I tried to have a baby for three years but when I got pregnant with triplets it was much more than I bargained for.


bark is worse than one’s bite:  someone is not as bad or as difficult as they seem to be. 

  • Example:  My girlfriend told me her father’s bark is worse than his bite and not to worry when I meet him this weekend.

bark up the wrong tree:  trying to achieve something but doing it in the wrong way or believing an explanation for something that isn’t true.

  • Example:  I'm a lawyer with a good job so my sister wanted a loan from me but she was barking up the wrong tree because I've got $250,000 in student loans.


off base:  wrong, not correct.

  • Example:  You're way off base if you think you can graduate from college without studying.

touch base (with someone):  to contact someone.

  • Example:  When you return from holiday let’s touch base  so we can set up our next appointment.


(don't) put all your eggs in one basket:  having all of your resources or efforts in just one possibility is very risky.

  • Example:  Don't you think submitting only one college application is putting all your eggs in one basket?


recharge one's battery:  to rest or relax in order to get energy back to do things again. 

  • Example:  We just returned from our cabin in the woods—no smart phones, television or traffic for an entire week was just what we needed to recharge our batteries.


be-all and end-all:  something really important or good.

  • Example:  Getting accepted into an Ivy League university is the be-all and end-all for me.

be game:  to be ready to participate in something.

  • Example:  I’m game for whatever you want to do this weekend.

be into something/someone:  to be really interested or active in something or someone.

  • Example:  My boyfriend is really into shopping and fashion but I hate it.

be off to depart, leave, or go away.

  • Example: Are you leaving so soon? Yes, I’m off to the grocery store before it closes.

be over:  to be finished.

  • Example:  I’m so glad final exams are over and summer is here.


spill the beans:  to tell someone a secret or tell someone information before you were supposed to. 

  • Example: My colleague spilled the beans that I had found a new position and it got back to my supervisor before I had given my notice of resignation.


bear (hold) a grudge (against someone):  to continue to be angry and not forgive someone.

  • Example:  I've apologized many times for calling my sister "fat" when she was a teenager but she still bears a grudge against me 25 years later.

bear fruit:  to produce a result.

  • Example:  I started to eat yogurt instead of donuts for breakfast and after three months my new diet is bearing fruit — I’ve lost five pounds already.

bear (something) in mind:  to consider or think about something.

  • Example:  Before you book your vacation, bear in mind that many flights get delayed during the winter due to bad weather so you might want to buy travel insurance.

bear out something / bear something out:  to prove or confirm that something is true.

  • Example: My own experience bears out  research that shows drinking diet soft drinks doesn’t help people lose weight.


beauty is only skin deep:  a person's inner beauty (not their outer appearance) is the most important factor.


  • I really believe that beauty is only skin deepmy wife may be average in looks but she's kind, gentle and super smart.
  • Although beauty is only skin deep, Queen Rania is gorgeous on both the inside and outside.
  • My brother says beauty is only skin deep  but then he only dates fashion models.
  • My parents always tell me that I'm wonderful and beauty is only skin deep  but the guys at school only like the pretty girls.

* Click here for a lesson on this idiom.


Tighten one's belt:  to spend less than usual in order to save money.

  • Example:  We had to tighten our belts after my wife left her job but it's worth it to have her home with our baby.


a little bird told me:  this is used to say that you got information from someone but you are not going to say who that person is.

  • Example:  A little bird told me that that we are having a pop quiz today in Mrs. Green's class.


blind as a bat:  not able to see or to not see well.

  • Example:  I keep an set of emergency eye gasses in my desk drawer because sometimes I misplace my regular eyeglasses in the house and can't find them because I'm blind as a bat. 

blind date:  a date (social meeting) where two people have never met before.

  • Example:  I did not want to go on a blind date that my mother arranged but I'm really glad I did because that's how I met my husband.


bore the pants off:  to be extremely boring or uninteresting to someone else.

  • Example:  This story is really boring the pants off me. Can you please get to the point?


boxed in:  Feeling restricted or stuck due to one's limited options.

  • Example:  We decided to rent for a year until we got to know the city so we wouldn't be boxed in to living in a neighborhood we don't like.

think outside the box:  to think creatively to find new ways of doing things or solving problems.

  • Example:  Sometimes drawing a picture of something can help you think outside the box and solve a problem since it uses the more creative right-brain processes. 


best thing since sliced bread:  this describes a new person or thing that's really great or amazing.

  • Example:  The new iPhone is the best thing since sliced bread—I absolutely have to buy one.


breathe easy/easier:  to become more calm or relaxed.

  • Example:  You'll breathe easier after your mid-term exams are over.


in brief:  something that is said with very few words or details.

  • Example:  In brief, he didn't get the job and doesn't want to talk about it.  Read more...


a drop in the bucket:  a very small or unimportant amount when compared to something else.

  • Example:  The bake sale raised only a drop in the bucket of what's needed to buy the new football uniforms.

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