English Idioms Course
“It’s easy to be an armchair critic, but no one ever takes action to help solve the problem.”
An armchair critic is a person who makes comments and criticisms about a situation that they are not actually DOING anything to help fix the problem. Imagine a person sitting in a big, comfortable armchair and making criticisms about something, without getting up and taking action!
For example, if you constantly criticize your town for not taking better care of stray animals, but you personally do not volunteer at the animal shelter or help organize campaigns to change the situation, then you are being an armchair critic.
“My aunt is such a busybody – she’s always asking nosy questions about my love life. I wish she’d mind her own business.”
A busybody is a person who constantly wants to know about or interfere in the details of other people’s lives.
Another way to describe someone like this is “nosy,” or you can say the person is always “poking their nose into” other people’s lives. The expression “mind (your) own business” means to focus on your own life without interfering in other people’s.
“John bought his mother a $5 gift for her birthday. I can’t believe what a cheapskate he is!”
A cheapskate is a person who hates to spend much money – and spends little money even in cases where more spending is needed. In this example sentence, John should have invested more money in a gift for his mother, but he only spent $5! Another way to describe a person like this is “stingy.”
“Stop being a couch potato – turn off the TV and go get some exercise.”
A couch potato is a lazy person who spends a lot of time sitting down or lying down, watching TV, playing video games, or doing some other activity that doesn’t involve physical activity.
“I like working with Janet because she’s so down-to-earth. Her plans and expectations are very reasonable.”
A person who is down-to-earth is practical, sensible, and realistic. Being down-to-earth is the opposite of being a dreamer, visionary, or “having your head in the clouds.”
Behind The Times / A Fuddy-Duddy
“My dad doesn’t have an e-mail address. He’s a little behind the times.”
Describing someone as “behind the times” means the person is old-fashioned and has not adopted certain modern customs, beliefs, or behaviors. A more negative word to describe a person who is “stuck in the past” is fuddy-duddy. This word is more of a criticism, whereas “behind the times” is more diplomatic.
“You can’t just wait for opportunities to be handed to you – you need to be more of a go-getter.”
A go-getter is a person who is active, energetic, and has the initiative to pursue the things they want.
Goody-Goody / Goody Two Shoes
“Mary was a goody two shoes in high school, but when she went to college she turned into a real rebel.”
A goody-goody or goody two shoes is a person who always acts good, sweet, or nice, and follows the rules perfectly. They never do anything bad or rebellious.
These words are NOT compliments – they have the connotation of a person who always acts good and is a little bit arrogant about it, showing off their perfect behavior.
An idiom for describing someone as good without this connotation of arrogance is “a good egg.”
Know-It-All / Smart Alec / Wise Guy
“I tried to give advice, but my know-it-all co-worker wouldn’t even listen.”
A know-it-all is a person who thinks they know everything, and that their opinions and ideas are the best. The idioms “smart alec” and “wise guy” are similar, but have more of a connotation of a person who demonstrates their cleverness in an arrogant or sarcastic way.
Man Of His Word / Woman Of Her Word
“If Gary said he’ll be there at 6:00, you can count on it. He’s a man of his word.”
A “man of his word” or “woman of her word” is a person you can trust because they tell the truth and keep promises.
Mover And Shaker
“Martha is the mover and shaker in the department. She’s always got ideas to help move things forward.”
A mover and shaker is an active person who helps their company, organization, or group make progress.
Set In His/Her Ways
“I showed my boss the benefits of this new strategy, but he’s set in his ways and doesn’t want to change anything.”
A person who is set in his or her ways is stubborn and committed to their current way of doing things. They aren’t open to changing, even if the change would be an improvement.
“Harry dumped Kate and immediately started trying to hook up with her 16-year-old sister. What a slimeball!”
(dumped = ended a romantic relationship)
(hook up with = start a romantic relationship, or have sex with)
A slimeball is a disgusting, horrible, person who deserves to be hated. A person can be described as a slimeball in any context (not only romantic relationships). This word can be used for anybody who did an especially terrible, dishonest, or violent action.
“I’m more reserved, but my mother is a social butterfly.”
A social butterfly is an extroverted person who loves to socialize. Like a butterfly goes quickly from flower to flower, a “social butterfly” often goes around a room having conversations with many people.
Stickler For The Rules
“Clean up the classroom after you’re done with your project. The teacher’s a stickler for neatness.”
Someone who is a “stickler for [something]” is a person who strongly insists on that quality or behavior, and wants or expects other people to maintain the same standard. People are usually sticklers for some rule of correctness, such as neatness/cleanliness, punctuality, correct grammar, tradition, accuracy, etc.
Wet Blanket / Party Pooper / Spoilsport / Killjoy / Stick-In-The-Mud
“I hate to be a wet blanket, but we should probably turn down the music – our neighbors are probably trying to sleep.”
These idioms describe a person who discourages fun or enjoyment for other people, or who prevents other people from having fun, through their actions or their negative attitudes.
“My mother’s such a worrywart that if I don’t call her every day, she starts imagining I’ve been killed in a horrible accident.”
A worrywart is a person who worries constantly and excessively.