Ants in one’s pants   People who have ants in their pants are very restless or excited about
“I wish he’d relax.  He’s got ants in his pants about something today!”
 Bare your heart (or soul) to someone   If you bare your heart or soul to someone, you reveal your innermost
thoughts and feelings to them.
“John couldn’t keep things to himself any longer.  He decided to bare
his soul to his best friend.”
 Bear the brunt (of something)   A person who bears the brunt of something is the one who suffers the
most when something bad or unpleasant happens.
  “When things go wrong, his assistant always has to bear the brunt of
his anger.”
 Bent out of shape   If you get bent out of shape, you become very annoyed or upset
about something that is usually not that important or cannot be
“Don’t get bent out of shape if you’re delayed.  We’ll wait for you.”
 Beside yourself (with an emotion)   If you are beside yourself (with an emotion), you lose your self-control
because of the intensity of the emotion you are feeling.
“He was beside himself with grief when he lost his son.”
 Carry the torch   If you carry the torch, you have strong feelings for someone with whom
you do not or cannot have a relationship..
“He’s been carrying the torch for Julie since their college days, before she
married Ted.”
 Wouldn’t be caught/seen dead   If someone says that they wouldn’t be caught or seen dead in a
particular place or doing something, they mean that they would be
too ashamed or embarrassed.
“My seven-year-old son thinks he’s a big boy; he wouldn’t be caught
dead holding my hand!”
 Cause a stir   If something causes a stir, it creates an atmosphere of excitement
or great interest.
“The arrival of the actress caused quite a stir in the village.”
 Wouldn’t be caught/seen dead   If someone says that they wouldn’t be caught or seen dead in a
particular place or doing something, they mean that they would be
too ashamed or embarrassed.
“My seven-year-old son thinks he’s a big boy; he wouldn’t be caught
dead holding my hand!”
 Cheesed off   If someone is cheesed off with something, they are annoyed, bored
or frustrated.
  “Julie is absolutely cheesed off with her job.
 chip on your shoulder   If someone has a chip on their shoulder, they feel resentful because
they feel they are being treated unfairly, especially because of
their background, their sex or their colour.
 Close to home   If a remark or comment is close to home, it is so true, or it affects you
so directly, that you feel uncomfortable.
“Alan looks embarrassed.  Bob’s comment must have been close to home!”
 Come apart at the seams   To say that someone is coming apart at the seams means that they are
extremely upset or under severe mental stress.

  “Bob has had so many problems lately, he’s coming apart at the seams.”
 Cork something up   If you cork something up (feelings, emotions), you fail to show or
express them.
  “It would be better for her if she showed her grief and didn’t cork up her
 Cut to the quick   If you cut someone to the quick, you hurt their feelings or offend
them deeply.
“Alan was cut to the quick when Jack expressed doubts about his
 Out of your depth.   If you are out of your depth, it means you are in a situation
which is too difficult for you, or which you know little about.
 On the edge of one’s seat   Someone who is on the edge of their seat is very interested in
something and finds it both extremely exciting and nerve-wracking.
“Look at Bob! He’s on the edge of his seat watching that rugby match.”
 Feel on top of the world   If you feel on top of the world, you feel wonderful or ecstatic about
“I’ve been feeling on top of the world since I got the results – I’m
 Keep one’s feet on the ground   A person who keeps their feet on the ground continues to act
in a sensible and practical way, even if they become successful.
 Fever pitch   If a situation or feeling reaches fever pitch, it becomes very intense
and exciting.
“Reaction to the affair has reached fever pitch all over the country.”
 A fish out of water   If you feel like a fish out of water , you  feel uncomfortable
because of an unfamiliar situation or unfamiliar surroundings.
“As a non-golfer, I felt like a fish out of water at the clubhouse.”
 Fit to be tied   Someone who is fit to be tied is extremely irritated, upset or angry.
“Harry was fit to be tied when his dog dug up the flowers he had
 Freudian slip   This refers to a mistake made by a speaker which is considered to reveal
their true thoughts or feelings.
“So you got the job – I’m so sad – sorry, I mean glad!”
 Have one’s heart in the right place   A person who has their heart in the right place has kind feelings
and good intentions, even if the results are not too good.
“The old lady’s cake wasn’t wonderful but she’s got her heart in the
right place.”
 Get a grip on yourself   If you get a grip on yourself, you make an effort to control your
feelings so as to be able to deal with a situation..
  “After the initial shock, Lisa got a grip on herself and called an ambulance.”
 Get something out of your system   This expression means that you get rid of a strong emotion or desire
by expressing it openly or trying to fulfil it.
“Tell your parents how you feel – it’s better to get it out of your system!”
 Get worked up (about something)   If you get worked up about something, you become upset, annoyed
or excited, often unnecessarily.
“It’s his first day at school tomorrow and he’s all worked up about it!”
 Go bananas   If someone becomes very emotional and starts behaving in a crazy way,
they go bananas.
“If you announce that you’re going to drop out of school, your parents
will go bananas!
 Go off the deep end   If a person goes off the deep end, they become so angry or upset
that they cannot control their emotions
“Mary will go off the deep end if her kids leave the kitchen in a mess
again. “
 Go to pieces   If you go to pieces, for example after a terrible shock, you are so upset
or distressed that you cannot lead your life normally.

“Jack nearly went to pieces when his son died in a plane crash.”
 Groan inwardly   If you groan inwardly, you feel like expressing despair, disapproval
or distress, but you remain silent.
  “On his return, when Pete saw the pile of files on his desk, he groaned
 Gut feeling   If you have a gut feeling about something, you have a strong intuition
which you cannot explain, but you are sure that you are right.
  “As I read the story, I had a gut feeling that the postman was lying …
and I was right!”
 Hard as nails   A person who is hard (or ‘tough’) as nails is unsentimental and
shows no sympathy.
“Don’t expect any sympathy from him.  He’s as hard as hails.”
 Have kittens   To say you’re going to have kittens is a dramatic way of expressing
worry, anxiety or fear.
“His mother nearly had kittens when Alex announced that he wanted
to be a trapeze artist.”
 Head over heels in love   When a person falls passionately in love with another, they are said
to be head over heels in love.
“Tony’s only interest at the moment is Maria.  He’s head over heels
in love with her!”
 Change of heart   If someone has a change of heart, they change their attitude or
feelings, especially towards greater friendliness or cooperation.
  “He was against charity, but he had a change of heart
when he saw the plight of the homeless.”
 Heebie-jeebies   A state of apprehension, nervousness or anxiety is called the
Having to go down to the car park at night gives me the heebie-jeebies.”
 Couldn’t give a hoot!   To say that you don’t or couldn’t give a hoot, means that
you don’t care at all about something.
“She wears eccentric clothes but she’s couldn’t give a hoot about
what others think.”
 Hope against hope   If you hope against hope, you continue to hope even when the
situation looks bad
“The whole building was destroyed by fire.  John’s parents are hoping
against hope that he escaped in time.”
 Hot under the collar   If you get hot under the collar, you feel annoyed, indignant or
  “If anyone criticizes his proposals, Joe immediately gets hot under
the collar.”
 In the heat of the moment   If you say or do something in the heat of the moment, you say or
do it without pausing to think, at a time when you are experiencing
unusually strong emotions such as anger, excitement, etc.
“I was so angry that in the heat of the moment I said things that
I regretted later.”
 Keep your fingers crossed   If you keep your fingers crossed, you hope that something will be
“I’m doing my driving test tomorrow.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.”
 Keep (something) in proportion   If you react to a situation in a sensible way, without exaggerating
the importance or seriousness of the facts, you keep things in
“Yes, we’ve got a problem, but let’s try to keep things in proportion.”
 Keep a stiff upper lip   If a person keeps a stiff upper lip, they contain their emotion
and do not let other people see their feelings.
“When she heard the bad news, she kept a stiff upper lip.”
 Cut the atmosphere with a knife   To say that you could “cut the atmosphere with a knife
means that the atmosphere is extremely tense or unfriendly.
 Know someone/something inside out.   If you know someone or something inside out, you know them
very well.
 Lick one’s wounds   When a person licks their wounds, they try to recover their
confidence or spirits after a defeat, failure or disappointment.
“Poor Harry is licking his wounds after being dropped off the team.”
 Look on the bright side   If you look on the bright side, you view a mostly unpleasant situation
in a positive and optimistic way and see the favourable aspects.
  “OK. You know nobody,  But there’s a bright side – you’ll make lots of
new friends!”
 Love me, love my dog   This expression means that if someone loves you, they must love
everything about you, including everyone and everything that you
 A lump in your throat   If you have a lump in your throat, you have a tight feeling in your
throat because of a strong emotion such as sadness or gratitude.
“The speech was so touching that I had a lump in my throat.”
 Make one’s ears burn   If something makes your ears burn, you are embarrassed by
what you hear, especially if the conversation is about you.
“The comments I overheard made my ears burn. “
 Make one’s flesh crawl   Something that makes your flesh crawl fills you with disgust or
makes you feel very nervous.
  “Just talking about snakes makes my flesh crawl.”
 Make one’s hair stand on end   If you are absolutely terrified of something, it makes your hair stand
on end.

“Just the thought of getting on a plane makes my hair stand on end.”
 Mixed feelings   When you have mixed feelings about something, you react to it
with conflicting emotions; you are happy and unhappy at the same time.

“I had mixed feelings about leaving the company.  I was excited about
my new job but sad to be leaving my colleagues.”
 Nice as pie   If a person is nice as pie, they are surprisingly very kind and friendly
“After our argument, she was nice as pie!”
 No hard feelings   If you have no hard feelings, you feel no resentment or bitterness
about something.
When Jack was promoted instead of Steve, he said to Steve :
“No hard feelings I  hope.”
 Not give a hang about
  If you do not give a hang about something, you are totally indifferent
to it and do not care at all about it.
“I’m not interested in football so I don’t give a hang about which team
 Nose out of joint   If a person’s nose is out of joint, they have been upset, embarrassed
or offended by somebody or something.
“When he discovered that he wasn’t on the invitation list, that really put
his nose out of joint.’
 Open/reopen old wounds    If you open or reopen old wounds, you revive memories of an
unpleasant event, situation or dispute that took place in the past.
“He carefully avoided the subject so as not to open old wounds.”
 (Hit/press/push) the panic button   When you hit the panic button, you raise the alarm too quickly or
react  too hastily in a difficult or stressful situation.
“Calm down! There’s no need to press the panic button yet.”
 Apleased (or as proud) as punch   Someone who is as pleased (or as proud) as punch is delighted
or feels very satisfied about something.
“Danny was as proud as punch when he won the tennis match.”
 Pour your heart out    If you pour your heart out to someone, you express your feelings
and troubles freely.

  “When she needs to pour her heart out to someone, she goes to visit
her grandmother.”
 Prey on someone’s mind   If something preys on your mind, it troubles you so much that you
keep thinking about it.
“The vision of the house on fire kept preying on her mind.”
 Prolong the agony   If someone prolongs the agony, they make an unpleasant or tense
situation last longer than necessary.
“Please don’t prolong the agony.  Just tell me whether I’ve been
accepted or not.”
 Proud as a peacock   A person who is as proud as a peacock is extremely proud.
“When his son won first prize, Bill was as proud as a peacock.”
 Put one’s foot in one’s mouth   If you put your foot in your mouth, you do or say something that
offends, upsets or embarrasses someone else.
“She really put her foot in her mouth when she mentioned the
housewarming party – Andy hadn’t been invited!”
 On the rack   If you are in a stressful situation, having to answer a lot of questions or
wait for a decision, you are on the rack.
 “The suspect was put on the rack by the police but he did not confess
to anything.”
 Reduce to tears   If your behaviour or attitude makes someone cry, you reduce them
to tears
“The teacher criticized her presentation so harshly that she was
reduced to tears.”
 Send a shiver down one’s spine   If something sends a shiver down your spine, it makes you feel
anxious, nervous or excited.
“That song always sends a shiver down my spine.”
 Have a soft spot   If you have a soft spot for someone or something, you particularly
like them.
“My grandfather has always had a soft spot for fast cars.”
 Speak volumes   If something speaks volumes, it expresses a reaction or opinion
very clearly, with no need for words.
“The happy smile on the child’s face when he opened the box spoke
volumes about my choice of gift.”
 On the spot   If you put somebody on the spot, you put them in a difficult situation,
for example by asking embarrassing or difficult questions which they
cannot avoid.
“When the reporter was asked to reveal his source, he was really put
on the spot.”
 Let off steam.   To let off steam means to say or do something to relieve
your feelings about something. 
 Steamed up   If someone is or gets steamed up about something, they become
very angryexcited or enthusiastic about it.
“Calm down – there’s no need to get all steamed up about it! “
 In a stew   When someone is in a stew about something, they are worried and
“When she was organizing the wedding reception, Laura got into a stew
over the seating arrangements.”
 stitherum   Someone who is (all) in a stitherum is excited, agitated or confused
about something.
“The mayor’s resignation created quite a stitherum in the town.”
 Strike (or hit) a raw nerve   If something you say strikes a raw nerve, it upsets someone because
they are very sensitive about the subject.
“Julie has just lost her job. You struck a raw nerve when you mentioned
 Swallow one’s pride   If you swallow your pride, you accept something humiliating or
embarrassing, for example having to admit that you are wrong, or
that you have less knowledge than you thought.
“When Jill failed the exam, she had to swallow her pride and repeat
the course.”
 Sweet nothings   Pleasant but unimportant words that lovers say to each other are
called sweet nothings.
He whispered sweet nothings in her ear as they danced.”
 Take a fancy   If you take a fancy to someone or something, you develop a
fondness or begin to like them.
“I think John has taken a fancy to the new intern!”
 Take a load/weight off somebody’s mind   If something takes a load or weight off somebody’s mind, it brings
great relief because a problem has been solved.
“When the company closed down, finding a new job took a load off
Tom’s mind.”
 Tear one’s hair out   If someone is tearing their hair out, they are extremely agitated
or distressed about something.
“I’ve been tearing my hair out all morning trying to find the error!”
 Otenterhooks   A person who is on tenterhooks is in a state of anxious suspense
or excitement.
 Thank one’s lucky stars   When someone says they can thank their lucky stars, they are
expressing heartfelt gratitude or feeling particularly fortunate.
“I can thank my lucky stars I wasn’t on the train that crashed.”
 That’s the last straw!   To say ‘that’s the last straw‘ expresses exasperation at the last in a
series of unpleasant events which makes the situation intolerable.
“After a harassing day of negotiating, the traffic jam was the last straw!”
 Think the sun rises and sets on
  If you consider someone to be the most wonderful person in the world,
it is said that you think the sun rises and sets on that person.
“She adores her husband.  She thinks the sun rises and sets on him.”
 Think the world of someone   If you think the world of someone, you like or admire them very much.
  “She’s a wonderful grandmother – the children think the world of her.”
 Thinly veiled   If something such as a feeling or reaction is thinly veiled, it is barely
“His disappointment was thinly veiled when he saw what he had won.”
 thorn in your side   If you say someone is a thorn in your side, you mean
that they continually irritate or annoy you.
 Tongue-tied   If you are tongue-tied, you have difficulty in expressing yourself
because you are nervous or embarrassed.
“At the start of the interview I was completely tongue-tied,
but little by little I relaxed.”
 Tug at the heartstrings   To say that something or someone tugs at the heartstrings means
that they cause others to feel a great deal of pity or sadness. 
  “The hospital’s plea for donors tugged at the heartstrings of millions
of viewers.”
 not turn a hair   If someone does not turn a hair, they show no emotion in
circumstances when a reaction is expected.
“When the police came to arrest him, he didn’t turn a hair.”
 Over the moon   If you are over the moon, you are absolutely delighted.
“We were all over the moon when we heard the good news.”
 On the same wavelength   To say that two people are on the same wavelength means
that they understand each other well because they share
the same interests and opinions.
 Weak at the knees   If a person is weak at the knees, they are temporarily barely able
to stand because of emotion, fear or illness.
“The shock of the announcement made me go weak at the knees.”
 Wear your heart on your sleeve   If you wear your heart on your sleeve, you allow others
to see your emotions or feelings.
“You could see she was hurt – she wears her heart on her sleeve.”
 Wish the ground would swallow
you up
  When you are so embarrassed by something that you would like to
disappear, you wish the ground would swallow you up.
“When I realized I was reading the wrong report, I stood there in front of
the group wishing the ground would swallow me up.”
 Be/mean all the world to somebody   When you are or mean all the world to someone, you are very
important or precious to them.
“His daughter means all the world to Mr. Jones. He says he couldn’t
live without her.”
 Wound up   When someone is so excited that they talk non-stop, they are 
wound up
“Claire had so much to tell us after her trip that she was wound up.”
 Written all over (someone’s) face   When someone’s feelings or thoughts are very clear, you can say
that they are written all over their face.
“Her affection for her grandson was written all over the old lady’s face.”
 At one’s wits‘ end   If you are at your wits’ end, you are very worried or anxious
about something, and you don’t know what to do.
“When her son dropped out of school for the second time,
Susan was at her wits’ end.”