Idioms – B

Here is a list of idiomatic expressions built around words beginning with letter B.

Be left holding the baby

When you are left holding the baby you are given a responsibility that you do not want.

The back of beyond

If something happens at the back of beyond, it happens at a very remote place.

Get someone’s back up

To get someone’s back up is to annoy them.

Turn your back on

To turn your back on something is to ignore or reject it.

With your back to the wall / Up against the wall

When you stand with your back to the wall, you are in a very difficult situation.

Bend over backwards

To bend over backwards is to try your hardest to be helpful or fair.

Bail someone out

To bail someone out is to rescue them from a difficulty.

Rise to the bait

To rise to the bait is to react to temptation exactly as someone planned.

Be in the balance / hang in the balance

When something hangs in the balance, it is in an uncertain state.

On the ball

When you are on the ball, you are alert.

Play ball

To play ball is to cooperate.

Start or set the ball rolling

To set the ball rolling is to make a start.

Have a ball

To have a ball is to have a very enjoyable time.

Be called to the bar

When you are called to the bar, you are allowed to practice as a barrister.

Behind bars

When you are behind bars, you are in prison.

With your bare hands

To do something with bare hands is to do it without using any tools or weapons.

Drive a hard bargain

To drive a hard bargain is to try hard for a deal in your favor.

Someone’s bark is worse than their bite

When someone’s bark is worse than their bite, they are not as dangerous as they seem to be.

Be barking up the wrong tree

When you are barking up the wrong tree you are doing or thinking something that is not correct.

Bear someone a grudge

To bear someone a grudge is to feel resentment against them.

Bear something in mind

To bear something in mind is to take something into account.

Beat about the bush

To beat about the bush is to discuss a matter without coming to the point.

Off the beaten track – isolated

At someone’s beck and calls

When you are at someone’s beck and calls you are ready to obey their orders.

Have a bee in your bonnet

When you have a bee in your bonnet, you are obsessed with something.

Below the belt

Unfair or against the rules

Tighten your belt

To tighten your belt is to cut your spending.

Under your belt

When you have something under your belt, you have achieved or acquired it.

Give someone a wide berth

To give someone a wide berth is to stay well away from them.

Beside yourself

When you are beside yourself you are frantic with worry.

Get the best of

To get the best of someone is to overcome them.

Make the best of

To make the best of something is to get what limited advantage you can get from them.

Better yourself

To better yourself is to improve your position.

Better off

When you are better off, you are in a more favorable position.

Get the better off

To get the better off someone is to defeat them.

Bide your time

To bide your time is to wait patiently for a good opportunity.

Too big for your boots

When you are too big for your boots, you are too proud of yourself.

Fit the bill

If something fits the bills it is suitable for the purpose.

Be bound by

When you are bound by something you are hampered or restricted by it.

The birds and the bees

An informal expression used to refer to the basic facts about sex.

Bit by bit

When you do something bit by bit, you do it gradually.

Do your bit

To do your bit is to make a useful contribution.

To bits

When you are thrilled to bits, you are very much thrilled.

Bite the bullet

To bite the bullet is to make yourself do something difficult.

Bite the hand that feeds you

To bite the hand that feeds you is to do something with the objective of offending someone who has been helpful to you.

Bite off more than you can chew

To bite off more than you can chew is to take on more than you can handle.

Bite your tongue

To bite your tongue is to stop yourself from saying something.

Blaze a tail

To blaze a tail is to be the first to do something.

Blind someone with

To blind someone with something is to confuse or overwhelm them with something they cannot understand.

Turn a blind eye

To turn a blind eye is to pretend not to notice something.

Knock someone’s block off

To knock someone’s block off is to hit them on the head.

Be in your blood / run in your blood

When something is in your blood or runs in your blood, it is an integral part of your character.

Have blood on your hands

When you have blood on your hands, you are responsible for someone’s death.

Make someone’s blood boil

To make someone’s blood boil is to make them very angry.

Blot your copybook

To blot your copybook is to do things that would damage your good reputation.

Blow hot and cold

To blow hot and cold is to keep changing your reputation.

Blow someone’s mind

To blow someone’s mind is to impress them very strongly.

Blow over

When a trouble or controversy blows over, it fades away without serious effects.

Blow up

When things blow up, they explode.

Once in a blue moon

When something happens once in a blue moon, it happens very rarely.

When something happens out of the blue, it happens when you least expect it.

The blues

The blues are the feelings of sadness/depression.

Call someone’s bluff

To call someone’s bluff is to challenge them to do something because you believe that they won’t be able to do it.

Be in the same boat

When you are in the same boat, you are in the same difficult situation as other people.

Miss the boat

You miss the boat when you are too slow to take advantage of an opportunity.

Rock the boat

To rock the boat is to disturb an existing situation.


Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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