List of O Idioms:

This O idioms list will get you “OFF and running” to mastering the most common expressions. Did it “OCCUR to you” that you only have to understand idioms to reach a high level of English? It’s true!

We do use idioms all the time in English but you can use other words to say the same thing.

So take a deep breath.... you only need to understand them.

Of course, if you are able to use them it will just make  your English that much better!

Before we get started you hopefully remember what an idiom is, right?

An idiom is a group of words that has a meaning that is different from the individual words that make up the expression.

For example, let's look at the idiom "off and running."

If you looked up the words "off" and "running," you would be puzzled and might think "off what?" and "running where?"  But the idiomatic expression "off and running" actually means having a good start and making good progress.

Don't worry, the definitions and example sentences will help you understand these expressions.

You can also practice writing your own sentences and get my feedback below in the comments.

O Idioms


rise to the occasion:  to do what is needed at a particular time.

  • Example:  She’s a good tennis player but she never rises to the occasion at the grand slam tournaments.


occur to someone:  to come to someone’s mind, to think of something.

  • Example:  It didn’t occur to me that when you said you’d be home “late” last night that you actually wouldn’t come home until 7 AM!


against the odds:  despite a lot of difficulty or challenges.

  • Example:  Against the odds, I beat the number one ranked player today.

odds and ends:  a variety of things (often left-over things).

  • Example:  I made this quilt out of some odds and ends from the linen closet.

at odds with something:  not in agreement.

  • Example:  Suddenly my best friends are at odds with each other so now I have to see them separately.


of course:  certainly, naturally.

  • Example:  Of course you can stay with us whenever you come to town.

of late:  lately, recently.

  • Example:  I’ve been going to bed really early of late and I feel so much better.


off and on (on and off):  working or existing sometimes but not at other times. 

  • Example:  The electricity has been off and on for the past five hours since the storm hit.


no offense:  this is not meant to insult or offend anyone.

  • Example:  No offense but I only date guys who share my religion.


the same old same old:  something that has stayed the same as before.

  • Example:  It’s the same old same old boring office as when you left a year ago.

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on a diet:  eating particular types and/or amounts of food (especially to lose weight or for medical reasons).

  • Example:  I’m on a low sodium diet since my doctor said my blood pressure is very high.

on and on (and on):  continuously without stopping.

  • Example:  These management meetings just go on and on and on and I can never get any work done.

on a shoestring:  with very little money or a very small budget.  Example:  I got a second job because the stress of living on a shoestring was killing me.

on the wait/waiting list:  on a list of people waiting for something.  Example:  We were on the waiting list for a two-bedroom apartment in our building for a year and a half and finally decided to move.


all at once:  suddenly, at the same time.

  • Example:  All at once the sofa caught on fire and we were barely able to leave the apartment in time.

at once:  right away, immediately.

  • Example:  Sheila, please come into my office at once!

once again:  another time.

  • Example:  Once again we see each other at the grocery store.  This is really unusual.

once and for all:  finally and completely.

  • Example:  After doing crash diets during my entire 20s, I lost the weight once and for all when I started to eat sensibly.

give someone/something the once over:  to make a decision or judgment after very quickly looking at someone/something.

  • Example:  When you’re finished with that letter I’ll give it the once over before you mail it.


one after the other:  one thing is followed by the next person or thing.

  • Example:  We need to solve this problem quickly because the complaints are coming in one after another.

one and only:  only.

  • Example:  This is my one and only photo of your great-grandmother so be careful with it.

one and the same:  the same thing.

  • Example:  FaceTime and Skype are practically one and the same except you don’t need an Apple device to use Skype.

one by one:  one thing or person immediately after another.

  • Example:  Everyone please line up at the entrance one by one and then I’ll give you the tickets.

one up (on something/someone):  to have an advantage over someone/something. 

  • Example:  This information is going to give me a one up over my competitors.

one and only:  the only person or type of thing.

  • Example:  My grandmother was the one and only woman in her college who graduated and became a doctor.


only just:  recently.

  • Example:  It’s over already? We only just got to the party.

only too:  very, very much.

  • Example:  The auto mechanic was only too happy to recommend repairs I didn’t need.


open to something:  willing to consider something.

  • Example:  I’m open to suggestions about how we divide up the work for this project.

open up:  to speak honestly and freely about something personal.

  • Example:  My sister opened up and told me she’s very unhappy in her marriage.

(out) in the open:  to become known to everyone, to be visible for all to see.

  • Example:  I put some brochures out in the open so people can take them if they’re interested.

wide open:  not decided or determined yet.

  • Example:  We haven’t even selected a venue yet so the planning is wide open.


keep one’s options open:  to wait further before making a choice.

  • Example:  I made a reservation at the Hilton Hotel but we’re keeping our options open and looking for a better rate somewhere else. 


in short order:  very fast.

  • Example:  We’ll have your meal ready in short order.

out of order:  not working, broken.

  • Example:  This coffee machine is out of order so don’t put any coins in it.


out from under (something):  not being controlled by someone else any longer. 

  • Example:  The people are finally out from under the dictator’s rule but now the country is in chaos.

out loud:  to voice something so others can hear it.

  • Example:  When I told my mother I needed a $300 per week she laughed out loud and told me to get a job.

out of it

1) confused/disoriented, not understanding or aware of what’s happening;

  • Example:  He always looks out of it because he smokes a lot of marijuana.

2) not a part of something. 

  • Example:  You stay out of it—no one wants to hear your opinion.

on the outs not friendly, no longer communicating.

  • Example:  The director and my boss are on the outs so it’s really uncomfortable for me.


at the outside:  no more than.

  • Example:  We’ll need a week more to finish painting at the outside.


over (and done) with:  completed, finished.

  • Example:  I can’t wait until high school is over and done with and I can move away to college.

over and over:  many times.

  • Example:  Shut up! You keep telling the same stories over and over and no one cares.

overdo it:  to do something too much.

  • Example:  Don’t overdo it with the champagne or you’ll have a terrible headache in the morning.

into overdrive:  in a situation where things are working extra hard.

  • Example:  As we get close to the conference everyone has moved into overdrive.

over the moon:  to be extremely happy or pleased. 

  • Example:  To be honest, we were over the moon when our daughter's awful boyfriend cheated on her and then broke up with her.


owe it to someone to do something:  you have an obligation to do something for someone.

  • Example:  You owe it to yourself to take better care of your health.


on your own

1) not having support from others

  • Example:  When I turned 21 my parents told me I was on my own but I’m glad because now I’m self-sufficient.

2) alone.

  • I actually love Spring Break when everyone leaves the dorm and I'm on my own.

own up (to something/someone):  admit you did something wrong.  Example:  If you had just owned up to taking the car it wouldn’t have been a huge problem but you lied and blamed your sister.

the world is your oyster:  you can do anything or go anywhere you want in life.  Example:  It was so nice to see how all of the graduates felt like the world is their oyster at the graduation ceremony today.

This idiom is the theme of this website:  With English, the world is your oyster. That means if you learn English you will have access to many different things that will enrich your life and bring you lots of different opportunities.

More idioms

This list has expressions beginning with the letter "O" but I've also created pages of expressions with other letters of the alphabet:  click here to go to the main idioms page.

I've also created some idioms infographics by theme. Check them out!

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