Most Important Idioms and Phrases in Nepali are collected by Lok Sewa Tayari.
List of Idioms and Phrases in Nepali
- A hot potato
Meaning: Something that is difficult or dangerous to deal with.
Example: Terrorism is a political hot potato in Afghanistan.
- A penny for your thoughts
Meaning: Way of asking what someone is thinking.
Example: After several minutes of silence he finally looked at her and said, “A penny
for your thoughts, Lily.
- Actions speak louder than words
Meaning: What you do is more significant than what you say.
Example: He: I am sorry. I’ll try to be a better person henceforth.
She: Actions speak louder than words.
- Add insult to injury
Meaning: To make a bad situation worse.
Example: Their basement was flooded, and then, to add insult to injury, a pipe burst in
- An arm and a leg
Meaning: A lot of money.
Example: It’s the best cruise in the world, but it will cost you an arm and a leg.
- At the drop of a hat
Meaning: Immediately; without any hesitation
Example: Ellie was always ready to go shopping at the drop of a hat.
- Back to the drawing board
Meaning: Start something all over again.
Example: I failed this semester, but now I am back to the drawing board.
- Ball is in your court.
Meaning: It is up to you to take the next step
Example: I’ve made my decision, now the ball is in your court.
- Barking up the wrong tree
Meaning: Looking in the wrong place; accusing the wrong person.
Example: He did not commit the crime, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
- Be glad to see the back of
Meaning: Be glad to see someone leave.
Example: I never liked her. I’ll be glad to see the back of her.
- Beat around the bush
Meaning: Avoid answering a question; not speaking directly about the issue.
Example: Tell me what the problem is, stop beating around the bush.
- Best of both the worlds
Meaning: Situation wherein one can enjoy two different opportunities.
Example: She had the privilege of a professor and freedom of a student. She had the
best of both worlds.
- Best thing since sliced bread
Meaning: A good idea or plan; an excellent new invention.
Example: I love your idea. It’s the best thing since sliced bread.
- Bite off more than you can chew
Meaning: To take on a task that is way too big.
Example: Our boss bit off more than she could chew when she promised the client
we’d have the project ready by NeXT week.
- Blessing IN disguise
Meaning: Something good that isn’t recognized at first.
Example: Ashok’s losing his job was a blessing in disguise; it gave him an opportunity
to pursue higher studies.
- Burn the midnight oil
Meaning: To stay up working, especially studying, late at night.
Example: She’s been burning the midnight oil for the last few months; her hard work
will definitely pay off in the coming exams.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover
Meaning: Don’t judge something primarily by its appearance.
She: He doesn’t look intelligent.
He: You can’t judge a book by its cover.
- Caught between two stools.
Meaning: When someone finds it difficult to choose between two alternatives.
Example: He had committed to both and now he’s caught between two stools.
- Cross that bridge when you come to it.
Meaning: Deal with a problem if and when it becomes necessary.
Example: He: I think I need to hire a lawyer.
She: Cross that bridge when you come to it.
- Cry over spilled milk
Meaning: To be unhappy about something that cannot be undone.
Example: It can’t he helped, don’t cry over spilled milk.
- Curiosity killed the cat
Meaning: Being too curious can get you into trouble.
Example: Don’t ask about his divorce-curiosity killed the cat!
- Cut corners
Meaning: To take shortcuts; when something is done badly to save money.
Example: They always put quality first; they won’t cut corners just to save money.
- Cut the mustard
Meaning: Perform satisfactorily; to succeed.
Example: We need a better catcher; this one just doesn’t cut the mustard.
- Devil’s advocate
Meaning: To present a counter argument
Example: The teacher always played devil’s advocate to provoke discussion in the
- Don’t count your chickens before the eggs have hatched.
Meaning: Don’t make plans for something that might not happen.
Example: You might not win the prize and you’ve already spent the money? Don’t
count your chickens before the eggs have hatched.
- Don’t give up the day job
Meaning: You’re not very good at something. You could definitely not do it
Example: Why did you invest in business even after failing in it in the past? Don’t give up
the day job!
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Meaning: Don’t focus all of your attention on one thing or one area.
Example: I know you love Harvard, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Apply to
other colleges too.
- Drastic times call for drastic measures
Meaning: When you’re extremely desperate you need to take drastic actions.
Example: Yes we had to let go of five of our workers! Drastic times call for drastic
- Elvis has left the building
Meaning: The show has come to an end. It’s all over.
Example: We waited for another performance by the band but it looked like Elvis had
left the building.
- Every cloud has a silver lining
Meaning: Be optimistic, even difficult times will lead to better days.
Example: I’m sorry your business is going badly, but remember every cloud has a silver
- Far cry from
Meaning: A thing that is very different from something else.
Example: What you did was a far cry from what you said you were going to do.
- Feel a bit under the weather
Meaning: Feeling sick or unhealthy.
Example: I’m not coming to office today, I’m feeling a bit under the weather.
- Give the benefit of doubt
Meaning: Believe someone’s statement without proof.
Example: I knew him since the past 5 years, so I gave him the benefit of doubt.
- Hear through the grapevine
Meaning: To hear news from someone who heard that news from someone else
Example: I heard through the grapevine that she’s pregnant.
- Hit the nail on the head
Meaning: To do or say exactly the right thing.
Example: You’ve spotted the flaw, Robert. You’ve hit the nail on the head.
- Hit the sack/sheets/hay
Meaning: To go to bed.
Example: I’m exhausted. I think I’ll just hit the sack.
- In the heat of the moment
Meaning: Overwhelmed by what’s happening at the moment.
Example: He doesn’t hate you. He just said that in the heat of the moment.
- It takes two to tango
Meaning: Both people involved in a bad situation are responsible for it.
Example: He blamed her for his lack of attention; well it takes two to tango.
- Jump on the bandwagon
Meaning: Join a popular trend or activity.
Example: So many people are playing that game that I might as well jump on the
bandwagon and check it out.
- Keep something at bay
Meaning: Keep something away
Example: A good way to keep your anxiety at bay is through meditation.
- Kill two birds with ones stone
Meaning: To solve two problems at a time with just one action
Example: John practiced his words while peeling the potatoes. He was killing two
birds with one stone.
- Last straw
Meaning: The final problem in a series of problems
Example: This is the last straw. I’m calling the police.
- Let sleeping dogs lie
Meaning: Leave something alone if it might cause trouble.
Example: I thought I would ask him if he wanted me to pay him back right away, but
then I decided to let the sleeping dogs lie.
- Let the cat out of the bag
Meaning: To reveal a secret / To share information that was previously concealed.
Example: It’s our secret. Don’t let the cat out of the bag.
- Make a long story short
Meaning: Come to the point – leave out the details.
Example: And – to make the long story short – I never got back the money I lent him.
- Method in the madness
Meaning: A purpose in what one is doing, even though it seems to be crazy.
Example: What I’m doing might seem strange, but there is method in my madness.
- Miss the boat
Meaning: To miss out on something.
Example: Pay attention, John, or you’ll miss the boat and never learn algebra.
- Not a spark of decency
Meaning: A person who has no manners
Example: Her brother has not a spark of decency. I don’t like the way he acts in public.
- Not playing with the full deck
Meaning: Someone who is mentally, psychologically or intellectually deficient.
Example: He’s an intelligent guy, but with all that crazy things he does, I wonder if he’s
not playing with the full deck.
- On the ball
Meaning: When someone understands a situation well; attentive.
Example: If you were on the ball, this wouldn’t have happened.
- Off the record
Meaning: Not made as an official or attributable statement; unofficial; confidential
Example: He accepted his fault off the record and hence it could not be used by the
prosecutor in the court.
- Oldest trick in the book
Meaning: A well known and much used trick/method
Example: Oldest trick in the book to treat cold and cough is drinking turmeric milk.
- Off the cuff
Meaning: Without preparation; spontaneous
Example: She has a reputation of handling off the cuff interviews very well.
- Old habits die hard
Meaning: People find it difficult to change their accustomed behavior.
Example: She retired last month, but still gets up at the same time in the morning.
Old habits die hard.
- Once in a blue moon
Meaning: Very rarely
Example: Jill has a very rocky relationship with her father. She speaks to him once in a
- Open the floodgates
Meaning: Release something that was previously under control
Example: Economists fear that relaxing price control will open the floodgates to
- Out of the blue
Meaning: Happen unexpectedly
Example: She had given up all hope when out of the blue she got a call from Harvard.
- Out on a limb
Meaning: Do something risky or something that others do not support (leaving the
doer in a difficult situation)
Example: She was out on a limb with her project – nobody supported her idea.
- Over the top
Meaning: Totally excessive and not suitable for the occasion.
Example: Her sari was way over the top for a somber occasion like this.
- Pen is mightier than the sword
Meaning: Words and communication have a greater effect than war
Example: A simple handwritten note put an end to their week long cold war – pen is
mightier than the sword.
- Push one’s luck
Meaning: Trying to obtain more than what one has (risk spoiling the current situation)
Example: You have my permission to go to your friends’ place but don’t push your luck
by planning a night out.
- Raining cats and dogs
Meaning: Raining heavily
Example: We’ll have to cancel the trip, it’s raining cats and dogs here.
- Reap the harvest
Meaning: Benefit or suffer as a direct result of past actions.
Example: When he cleared IIT-JEE, he reaped the harvest of all his hard work.
- Roll up one’s sleeves
Meaning: Get ready for hard work
Example: My brother said he would roll up his sleeves and do whatever it takes to
support the family.
- See eye to eye
Meaning: To be in agreement with
Example: She was glad her roommate saw eye to eye on the choice of the flat.
- Shot in the dark
Meaning: A complete guess (may or may not be close to the truth)
Example: He didn’t know too much about programming, so answering the interviewer’s
question was merely a shot in the dark.
- Sink your teeth into
Meaning: Do something with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.
Example: Robin immediately sank his teeth into his new job.
- Skating on thin ice
Meaning: Do or say something risky or something that could cause trouble.
Example: Don’t say anything that hurts her self esteem or you could be skating on thin
- Stand in a good stead
Meaning: To be useful or be of good service to someone.
Example: Being fluent in German will stand you in a good stead when applying for an
MS in Germany.
- Strike while the iron is hot
Meaning: To act at the right time
Example: The price of gold is at a 10 year low, strike while the iron is hot and invest in
it right away.
- Take a back seat
Meaning: Choose to be less important in a role
Example: He finally decided to take a back seat and let his son run the family business.
- Take with a grain/pinch of salt
Meaning: To doubt the accuracy of information
Example: A lot is said about the celebrities in media, but that information should be
taken with a grain of salt.
- Take a nosedive
Meaning: Rapid drop or decrease in value
Example: The share prices took a nosedive when there were rumors of the company’s
- Take the plunge
Meaning: Venture into something of one’s interest despite the risks involved
Example: Jack finally took the plunge and opened a restaurant.
- Taste of one’s own medicine
Meaning: Treat people the same (unpleasant) way they treated you
Example: People who often disregard others should be given a taste of their own
- Think the world of
Meaning: Admire someone very much
Example: Emily is a wonderful teacher – children think the world of her.
- Tight spot
Meaning: A difficult situation
Example: The recent lawsuit has put the firm in a tight spot.
- Tongue in cheek
Meaning: (of a remark) Supposed to be taken in funny or ironic sense
Example: Her comment was taken more seriously than intended. It was supposed to be
tongue in cheek.
- Turn a blind eye
Meaning: Pretend not to notice
Example: People tend to turn a blind eye to crime against women.
- Walk on eggshells
Meaning: Be extremely cautious about one’s words or actions
Example: Celebrities are scrutinized by the media for all their actions so they’re
required to walk on eggshells.
- Want someone’s head on a platter
Meaning: Want someone to be punished severely
Example: “I want that murderer’s head on a platter!”, said the Chief of police.
- Watch (someone) like a hawk
Meaning: Keep eyes on or watch carefully
Example: The examiner watched the test takers like a hawk.
- Water under the bridge
Meaning: Something bad that happened in the past but is no longer important
Example: The couple had a serious fight in the past but that water is under the bridge
- Wave a dead chicken
Meaning: Do some useless, unhelpful thing in the hope that it will solve a problem
Example: Restarting the laptop once the motherboard has crashed is like waving a
- Weak in the knees
Meaning: Barely able to stand because of emotion, fear or illness
Example: The shock of being summoned by the Supreme Court made me go weak in
- Wear many hats
Meaning: Do many different types tasks
Example: We have such a small number of employees that one is often supposed to
wear many hats.
- Weather the storm
Meaning: Succeed in surviving a difficult period of time
Example: Given the current global market conditions, the Indian economy is
weathering the storm pretty well.
- Wet behind the ears
Meaning: Inexperienced and immature
Example: Instead of a full time job, she should be offered an internship as she is still
wet behind the ears.
- Whale of a time
Meaning: Enjoy a lot
Example: She had a whale of a time in Goa with her girl gang.
- Whistle in the dark
Meaning: Pretend to be brave in a scary situation
Example: Upon being attacked, she blew a whistle in the dark which surprised her
- Why keep a dog and bark for yourself
Meaning: If someone or something can do a job for you, why do it yourself?
Example: My sister has a printer, but she continues to write notes manually. Why keep
a dog and bark for yourself?
- Wide off the mark
Meaning: Incorrect; Inadequate; Not what is expected
Example: Her answer was wide off the mark; it was impossible for me to give a better
rating to it.
- Wild goose chase
Meaning: Waste time looking for something that has little chance of being found
Example: She tried to find out who the anonymous caller was, but it turned out to be a
wild goose chase.
- Wipe the slate clean
Meaning: Make a fresh start
Example: When Mike was leaving home, he decided to wipe the slate clean with his
- Wolf in sheep’s clothing
Meaning: Dangerous person pretending to be harmless
Example: I thought she was a good person, but I realized that she was a wolf in a
sheep’s clothing when she backstabbed me during the selection process.
100 Must Know Idioms Free e-book PDF
- Work your fingers to the bone
Meaning: Extreme hard work
Example: She totally deserves the success; she worked her fingers to the bone when
she started out as a model.
- Worm’s eye view
Meaning: A perspective seen from below or from a low or inferior position
Example: The trainees get only a worm’s eye view of the corporate structure.
- Worth one’s salt
Meaning: Good or competent at the job or profession specified
Example: She deserves respect as she is totally worth her salt.
- Wrap one’s brain around
Meaning: Concentrate on something in an effort to understand
Example: I really need to wrap my brain around this concept before the exam.
- Zero in on something
Meaning: Focus all attention onto one thing
Example: The teacher immediately zeroed in on the weaker students of the class.
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