Idioms are common in all kinds of English, formal and informal, spoken and written. Here is a list of idioms derived from the parts of the body.
Keep at arm’s length (If you keep somebody at arm’s length, you avoid being too friendly with that person.)
- He is very quarrelsome, so I keep him at arm’s length.
With open arms (with great affection and enthusiasm)
- He welcomed his friends with open arms.
Idioms with Back
Break the back of something (finish the hardest part of a work)
- Since my colleagues had already broken the back of it, I could finish the work easily.
Put one’s back into something (work at something with all one’s energy)
- You have to finish this work by tomorrow, so put your back into it.
Put someone’s back up (make a person angry)
- His offensive manner put my back up.
With one’s back against/to the wall (be forced to defend oneself in a difficult situation)
- Since there was no one to help him, he had to fight alone with his back against/to the wall.
Be on somebody’s back (keep asking someone to do something, or keep criticizing someone in a way that annoys them)
- He’s still on my back about those ten pounds he lent me.
Behind somebody’s back (if you do something behind someone’s back, you do it without them knowing)
- I don’t want to talk about it behind his back.
Stab somebody in the back (do something harmful to someone who trusted you)
- He was stabbed in the back by people he thought were his friends.
Turn your back on somebody (refuse to help someone)
- I appealed for help, but they turned their back on me.
Back to square one (If you are back to square one, you have to start working on something from the beginning because your previous attempt failed.)
- We thought everything was settled, but now they say they’re not happy with the deal, so we’re back to square one again.
Be out of your brain (be very drunk)
- When he reached home last night, he was out of his brain.
Get your brain in gear (make yourself start thinking clearly and effectively)
- I have got an important meeting today, so I have to get my brain in gear.
Rack your brain/brains (think very hard, usually in order to remember something or to find a solution to a problem)
- I’ve been racking my brains but I still can’t find a solution to this vexed problem.
Make a clean breast of it (confess a wrong doing)
- At first he denied the offence, but later he decided to make a clean breast of it.
Cheek by jowl (very close together)
- The children sat cheek by bowl in the packed hall.
Turn the other cheek (if you turn the other cheek, you don’t get angry when someone attacks or insults you)
- Non-violence policy requires that you turn the other cheek, when someone hits you.
Tongue in cheek (if you say something tongue in cheek, what you have said is a joke, although it might seem to be serious)
- This book is a very engaging and at times tongue-in-cheek account of her brush with stardom.
Keep/play your cards close to your chest (not tell anyone what you plan to do)
- You will never know what he is going to do next. He plays his cards close to his chest.
Get it off your chest (tell someone about something that has been worrying you)
- If you have a problem, get it off your chest and you will feel better.
Keep your chin up (stay cheerful)
- I was delighted to know that he was keeping his chin up despite all his difficulties.
Take it on the chin (be brave and not complain when bad things happen to you or people criticize you)
- John took it all on the chin, though he was severely criticized by his boss.
Turn a deaf ear (refuse to listen to somebody or something)
- He turned a deaf ear to our warning and thus got into trouble.
Grin/smile from ear to ear (look extremely happy)
- His latest book is selling well and he is grinning from ear to ear.
Up to one’s ears in (deeply involved in)
- He is up to his ears in work/debt/trouble.
Elbow one’s way through (force one’s way by using one’s elbow)
- The conference room was so crowded that I had to elbow my way through the crowd to reach my seat.
Not bat an eye/eyelash/eyelid (not show any shock or surprise)
- ‘So what did she say when you told her you were leaving?’ ‘She didn’t bat an eyelid.’
Turn a blind eye (choose to ignore behaviour that you know is wrong)
- I knew Peter was taking the money but I turned a blind eye because he was my nephew.
Keep an eye on (keep a watch on)
- I decided to keep an eye on him because I found his way of working suspicious.
In the eyes of somebody (in somebody’s judgment)
- In my eyes he is a good and honest man.
Before/under one’s very eyes (in one’s presence)
- These evil practices are happening before your own eyes and you are keeping silence.
Doesn’t see eye to eye (If two people don’t see eye to eye, they don’t agree with each other.)
- He’s asked for a transfer because he doesn’t see eye to eye with the new manager.
Put a brave face/front on something (behave in a way that makes people think you are happy when you are not)
- She’s very ill but she’s putting a brave front on it. (= She makes people believe that her illness does not worry her.)
Put on a brave face/front
- I was not feeling well. Nevertheless, I decided to put on a brave face/front.
In-your-face (shocking or annoying in a way that is difficult to ignore)
- They ran an in-your-face campaign to promote the magazine.
Face up to (meet or accept challenges boldly)
- I never thought that he would be able to face up to the difficult situation.
In the face of (in spite of)
- He could achieve his goal in the face of great difficulties.
Lose face (do something that may affect your reputation)
- He refused to admit his involvement in the scandal because he didn’t want to lose face.
Face the music (accept criticism or punishment for something that you have done)
- When it was discovered that he was the culprit, he chose to disappear rather than face the music.
Get cold feet (suddenly become too frightened to do something you had planned to do)
- They were to get married last Sunday, but unfortunately John got cold feet at the last moment.
Drag your feet/heels (act in a slow and hesitant manner)
- Peter wants to purchase a new car, but his father is dragging his feet.
- I wonder why the government is dragging its feet over the abolition of job reservation based on caste.
Keep your/both feet on the ground (not have your character spoilt by becoming famous or successful)
- Success hasn’t changed him – he has kept his feet firmly on the ground.
Stand on one’s own feet (become independent)
- She has finally got a good job – she can now stand on her own feet.
Think on your feet (think and react quickly)
- You must be able to think on your feet if you are doing live stage shows.
Not let the grass grow under your feet (not waste time by delaying doing something)
- Students, your exams are fast approaching – you can hardly afford to let the grass grow under your feet.
Have the world at your feet (become extremely successful and popular)
- Her first film has just released, but the young actress already has the world at her feet.