I had to "shake a leg" or I would be in serious trouble.

Idioms

What are Idioms?

An idiom is an expression whose meaning is completely different from what its words seem to say.

Instead it has a figurative meaning, an additional layer of understanding known only to those who are already familiar with the idiom.



Examples

  1. "To let the cat out of the bag" is an idiom that really means "To reveal a piece of information, often a secret."
  2. "To shake a leg" means "To hurry up."
  3. "To show me the money" means "Give me what I really want."


A Thing to Know

If you didn't know that figurative meaning, the words by themselves wouldn't make much sense at all.

After all, who actually keeps cats in bags - and what do either have to do with secrets?



3 Common Features of Idioms

  1. The intended meaning is completely different from the literal meaning of the phrase.
  2. You can't just substitute a word in the expression with a similar word. For example, you couldn't say "let the dog out of the bag" and have it mean the same thing.
  3. You can't modify an idiom's words with adjectives and other words. For example, you might get some funny looks if you say "let the yellow cat out of the large bag" to mean "tell a secret."