This CSE idiomatic expressions reviewer will discuss everything about, well, you guessed it right. Idioms. While there are not many of this type of question in the exam, they sometimes pop-up under the Vocabulary section. If there are 3 questions about idioms and you happen to know their meanings, then that’s an easy 3 points for you. One great thing about idioms is you can memorize. Moreover, the sentence that these Civil Service exam idioms are in usually provides clues to what they mean.
What is an Idiom?
Idiom Meaning: An idiom is a group of words that are used as a common expression whose meaning is not deducible from that of the literal words. Idioms are used frequently in both written and spoken English. Many idiomatic expressions, in their original use, were not figurative but had literal meaning. Also, sometimes the attribution of a literal meaning can change as the phrase becomes disconnected from its original roots, leading to folk etymology. So let’s take a look at the most popular idioms and common idioms in the English language and what they mean.
50 Commonly Used and Popular CSE Idioms
If you are a frequent reader of English books or novels, chances are you have already encountered some of these idioms. Again, this 50 CSE idioms list will help you understand them. Again, don’t forget to analyze the sentence they are in as the message they convey will be your clue.
1. A blessing in disguise
Meaning: A good thing that initially seemed bad
Example: Losing the senatorial race turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
2. A dime a dozen
Meaning: Something that is very common, not unique
Example: Filipina models nowadays are a dime a dozen.
3. Adding insult to injury
Meaning: To make a bad situation even worse
Example: Teachers were forced to submit more paper works than usual, and to add insult to injury, the Department decided not to give a salary increase.
4. Beat around the bush
Meaning: Avoid sharing your true viewpoint or feelings because it is uncomfortable
Example: Quit beating around the bush and say what you want to say.
5. Beating a dead horse
Meaning: Giving time or energy to something that is ended or over
Example: Why do you insist on beating a dead horse by bringing up these old problems of ours?
6. Bite the bullet
Meaning: To get an unfavorable situation or chore over with now because it will need to get finished eventually
Example: Tour operators may be forced to bite the bullet and cut prices.
7. Bite more than you can chew
Meaning: Not having the capacity to take on a new assignment or task that is just too taxing
Example: By accepting two part-time jobs, he is clearly biting off more than he can chew.
8. By the skin of one’s teeth
Meaning: Just barely making it
Example: They escaped that dangerous situation just by the skin of their teeth.
9. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch
Meaning: Not to count on something happening until after it’s already happened
Example: She wanted to buy a dress in case someone asked her to the prom night, but I told her not to count her chickens before they hatch.
10. Caught between a rock and a hard place
Meaning: Making a choice between two unpleasant choices
Example: The Rams’ move to Los Angeles has put the Chargers between a rock and a hard place.
11. Costs an arm and a leg
Meaning: Something that is overpriced or very expensive
Example: Buying a new phone these days costs an arm and a leg.
12. Cut corners
Meaning: Not performing a task or duty correctly in order to save time or money
Example: Do not cut corners on this project–it has to be done thoroughly, no matter the cost.
13. Devil’s advocate
Meaning: To take the side of the counter-argument, or offer an alternative point of view
Example: I don’t really believe all that. I was just playing devil’s advocate.
14. Feeling under the weather
Meaning: Not feeling well, or feeling sick
Example: I’m feeling a bit under the weather. I think I caught the crown virus.
15. Fit as a fiddle
Meaning: Being in good health
Example: My grandmother is 89 but she’s fit as a fiddle.
16. Getting a taste of your own medicine
Meaning: Being treated the way that you have been treating others
Example: I don’t feel at all sorry that people are calling you names. You’re getting a taste of your own medicine.
17. Getting a second wind
Meaning: Having energy again after being tired
Example: I planned to stop working at 9, but then I got my second wind and just kept going.
18. Giving someone the cold shoulder
Meaning: ignoring someone
Example: I thought she really liked me, but the next day she gave me the cold shoulder.
19. Wild goose chase
Meaning: doing something that is pointless
Example: Her scheme of being a movie star is a wild goose chase.
20. Heard it on the grapevine
Meaning: Hearing rumors about someone or something
Example: I heard from the grapevine that the company is going bust.
21. Hitting the nail on the head
Meaning: Performing a task with exactness
Example: I think David hit the nail on the head when he said that kids won’t want to buy this product.
22. Killing two birds with one stone
Meaning: Accomplishing two different tasks in the same undertaking
Example: We can kill two birds with one stone by dropping off the mail when we go to the grocery store.
23. Letting someone off the hook
Meaning: Not holding someone responsible for something
24. Letting the cat out of the bag
Meaning: Sharing information that was intended to be a secret
Example: I have let the cat out of the bag. These are the secrets to remembering many CSE idiomatic expressions.
25. No pain, no gain
Meaning: You have to work hard in order to see results
Example: I’ve worked for hours on those irregular French verbs, but no pain, no gain.
Tips to Memorize CSE Idiomatic Expressions
Before we continue, I’d like to share some tips on how to memorize these idiomatic expressions. Doing these tricks will make you easily remember idioms and ace this part of the test.
- Do not limit yourself to meanings alone, understand contexts: Try and understand in what context a particular idiom or phrase has been used. This will help you understand and remember the particular idiom or phrase better.
- Keep a handy list for revising what you have learned: Keep a diary to learn words on the go. This will not make learning Civil Service Exam idioms a chore. In fact, these days you don’t even need to carry a diary. You can simply note down the idioms and their meanings in a notepad app on your smart-phone and revise it on the go.
- Do not try to cram at once: Never try and learn too many idioms or phrases at the same time. However, learning them by grouping them into themes is quite a good idea.
- Relate idioms and phrases to visual imagery: Try and relate idioms and phrases to images and link them to stories. If you do that, you will never forget them!
- Try to explore the origin of idioms & phrases: Most idioms & phrases have very interesting origin stories. You should try to explore them or search them on Wikipedia as these would enable you to understand the meanings of these idioms and phrases better.
Now, onto the next half of our idioms reviewer…
26. On the ball
Meaning: Doing a good job, being prompt, or being responsible
Example: She really is on the ball; she’s bought houses at auctions so she knows what she’s doing.
27. Once in a blue moon
Meaning: Something that doesn’t happen very often
Example: That group puts on a good performance only once in a blue moon.
28. Piece of cake
Meaning: A task or job that is easy to complete
Example: Lanie found the Civil Service Exam Idioms reviewer to be a piece of cake because she already knows most of it.
29. Pulling someone’s leg
Meaning: Joking with someone
Example: I love pulling my sister’s leg—it’s almost too easy to annoy her.
30. Speak of the devil
Meaning: When the person you have just been talking about arrives
Example: Did you hear what happened to Mary today – oh, speak of the devil, there she is.
31. Stealing someone’s thunder
Meaning: Taking credit for someone else’s achievements
Example: I didn’t mean to steal your thunder, but I just had to tell your mom about your promotion.
32. Straight from the horse’s mouth
Meaning: Reading or hearing something from the source
Example: I don’t believe that she memorized the entire CSE idiomatic expressions exam. I’m going to go ask her and hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.
33. The last straw
Meaning: The last difficulty or annoyance that makes the entire situation unbearable
Example: The last straw in their relationship was when he physically abused her.
34. The elephant in the room
Meaning: An issue, person, or problem that someone is trying to avoid
Example: When I had dinner with my parents, the elephant in the room was the fact that I’m 45 years old and still single.
35. Throwing caution to the wind
Meaning: Being reckless or taking a risk
Example: Your throwing caution to the winds if you ignore Civil Service Exam idioms and don’t review them.
36. Burning bridges
Meaning: Damaging a relationship beyond repair
Example: She’s young, so I don’t think she realizes that she’ll be burning her bridges if she goes to work for their competitor.
37. Every dog has his day
Meaning: Everyone gets their chance to do something big
Example: I know you’re shocked that that dopey kid got a better grade than you, but hey, every dog has its day.
38. Bury the hatchet
Meaning: To make peace with someone
Example: Can you please bury the hatchet and make-up with your sister already? I can’t take the constant fighting.
39. Go down in flames
Meaning: To fail in a spectacular manner
Example: Despite all the media hype, the major summer blockbuster went down in flames—hardly anyone went to see it while it was in theaters.
40. Having your head in the clouds
Meaning: Daydreaming, not paying attention
Example: My daughter always has her head in the clouds as she walks home from school.
41. He/She is off their rocker
Meaning: Someone who is acting crazy or not thinking rationally
Example: I think Jane’s grandmother is a little off her rocker these days.
42. It’s always darkest before the dawn
Meaning: Things always get worse before they get better
Example: When things are not going your way, don’t give up. It’s always darkest just before the dawn.
43. Like riding a bike
Meaning: Something that you never forget how to do
Example: Memorizing the CSE Idiomatic Expressions reviewer riding a bike.
44. Like two peas in a pod
Meaning: Two people who are always together
Example: Those kids have the same wacky sense of humor—they’re truly like two peas in a pod.
45. Run like the wind
Meaning: To run really fast
Example: She’s very slight in build and she can run like the wind.
46. Through thick and thin
Meaning: Everyone experiences hard and good times
Example: Meridith stood beside her friend through thick and thin.
47. Weather the storm
Meaning: Enduring a trial or hardship
Example: Alianna lost her job, but somehow her family weathered the storm.
48. Can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs
Meaning: Impossible to achieve something important without there being some bad effects.
Example: Your students clearly don’t respect you. I know you don’t want to yell at them, but you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
49. A bitter pill
Meaning: A situation or information that is unpleasant but must be accepted.
Example: Many have swallowed the bitter pill and tried again, often with salutiferous effects.
50. Call it a day
Meaning: To declare the end of a task.
Example: This is the last of the CSE idiomatic Expressions! Let’s call it a day.
So there you have it. The 50 common CSE idiomatic expressions that could pop up in the Civil Service Exam. Again, remembering these idioms will help you get a higher score in the Vocabulary part of the test.