Can You Define This American Expression?


By: Olivia Cantor

6 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Don't "take a raincheck!" If you're ready to "call it a day," you should start relaxing by taking this quiz! From all the American expressions in the English language, how many of them could you define?

The English language originated between 400 and 600 A.D. in what we now consider the Germanic and Scandinavian areas of Europe. Since then, the language was brought over to Great Britain, where it traveled over the Atlantic Ocean to North America with its settlers. While it is now a common second language for international natives to speak, they might have a bit of difficulty recognizing American English expressions.

Each language has its own expressions. Rather than saying the classic,"Oh my God," the French are replacing it with "Oh, the cow!" Unlike our expression of something "costing an arm and a leg," the French have their own form by saying it "costs the eyes in your head." Whether you're giving up your arms and legs or your eyes, clearly whatever it is costs a lot!

While those expressions and idioms may seem easy, how many American ones can you recognize? If someone tells you they want to "burn bridges," will you be calling up the fire department? If someone is "giving the cold shoulder," is that because it's winter outside?

Can you remember all these American expressions? We hope so! "Face the music" with this quiz! Do these expressions "ring a bell"? Let's find out!

What does it mean to be "under the weather?"

When feeling "under the weather," it means that someone is not feeling too well. It could mean either the physical kind or mental kind of unwell.


What does "shooting the breeze" mean?

"Shooting the breeze" usually means that someone is having some kind of informal talk with someone else; usually just small talk, nothing serious.


What does "pass the buck" mean?

When someone doesn't want to own up to their mistakes and want to pass the blame on, it's called "passing the buck." No, it's not any deer's fault, so don't blame them.


What does "by the skin of someone's teeth" mean?

The expression "by the skin of the teeth" means that one had a narrow chance of surviving or getting through something. It could be as serious as getting out of huge life-or-death situations or surviving something seemingly small, but utterly catastrophic.


What does "feeling blue" mean?

When you're "feeling blue," it means you're feeling sad. Why do you think all the "blues" songs are so depressing?


What does "an eye for an eye" mean?

When we say an "eye for an eye," it means someone did the same level or more of wrong to someone who has wronged them previously. It's all Biblical and stuff.


What does "the ball is in your court" mean?

When we say "the ball is in your court," it means the next move is up to you. You have to decide fast, or lose the game, whether in sports or in life.


What does "call it a day" mean?

We usually hear office workers say "call it a day" it means they're finally going to stop working and prepare to go home. But this also applies to anyone doing very tiring activity, and deciding to stop.


What does "burning bridges" mean?

"Burning bridges" means someone decided to cut all ties or connections with another person mostly out of spite or in a fit of anger.


What does "to beat a dead horse" mean?

"To beat a dead horse" means doing something even if it's futile, or the end result is already known or will remain the same. So no, it's not exactly animal cruelty, but rather, cruelty of the mind.


What does "at the drop of a hat" mean?

"At the drop of a hat" means one can be called upon immediately. It also means deciding things and responding to them quickly, often without hesitation.


What does "piece of cake" mean?

When someone brags that some activity or task is just a "piece of cake," it means the activity is perceived as very easy. Of course, this could also be just someone being a braggart, too.


What does "screw up" mean?

To have things "screw up" mean everything is a total mess, or something's not going well. This is applicable to a situation or to a person who made the mistake.


What does "take a raincheck" mean?

When someone wants to "take a raincheck", it means they want to postpone a prior agreement of meeting up. This could apply to a friendly meet-up, a business meeting, or anything in between.


What does "spill the beans" mean?

When you want someone to "spill the beans," you're asking for a confession of sorts. It also means you want them to share their secret with you, or for them to give you information they're withholding.


What does "down to earth" mean?

Someone who is "down to earth" means they're not bragging about things that they could brag about. It also means that they're very approachable and easygoing.


What does "lighten up" mean?

To "lighten up" means to lessen one's initial rage, outburst, or even sadness. Whatever it is, it means just take it easy or relax, so that things can dissipate a bit.


What does "giving the cold shoulder" mean?

When someone is "giving the cold shoulder" to someone else, it means they are totally ignoring this person.


What does "hang out" mean?

To "hang out" means to just chill kind of like getting together and doing fun stuff. Young and old alike do this action.


What does "plead the fifth" mean?

When Americans say "I plead the fifth," they're referring to the US Constitution's Fifth Amendment that basically protects someone from saying bad things that can directly harm that person or another. In short, they just don't want to say something that could backfire on them.


What does "face the music" mean?

A brave or remorseful person could "face the music" after doing something bad. It means that they're ready to accept the consequences of their actions, even if it might hurt them badly.


What does "avoid it like the plague" mean?

When they say "avoid it like the plague," it means don't go near it, at all costs. It may be a death sentence if to not heed this advice.


What does "back to the drawing board" mean?

To "go back to the drawing board" means to retrace one's steps and go back to the first one. It basically means to start from scratch.


What does "to give props to someone" mean?

"To give props to someone" means to honor a person in a small way, because they deserve some kind of recognition. "Props" is like a shortened slang term of "proper respect."


What does it mean to be "bent out of shape?"

When someone is "bent out of shape," it means they're not in a very logical and straight resolve, manner, or attitude. And it's because they're very upset over something.


What does "not buying it" mean?

When someone's "not buying it", it means they're very doubtful of an idea being sold to them.


What does "to drive up the wall" mean?

When a person makes another so mad, we could say that they're "driving someone up the wall." No seatbelt is necessary for this one.


What does "jack up" mean?

To "jack up" something, means to raise the stakes or the price abruptly, most times unjustly, too. It applies to money matters, mostly, but it could also refer to something intangible and priceless.


What does "pig out" mean?

To "pig out" means one is eating way too much and in excess of what's needed. Sometimes it's unconscious, but most times it's a conscious decision.


What does "going Dutch" mean?

A couple "going Dutch" on a date means they pay individually for the food orders they took. That means neither will pay for both meals.


What does being "between a rock and a hard place" mean?

To get caught "between a rock and a hard place" means both decisions, sides, or choices that someone finds themselves in are equally tough or difficult.


What does "ring a bell" mean?

When something "rings a bell" for someone, it means that they recognize or remember something or someone. Some people say this sometimes to avoid being confronted by a fact.


What does it mean to "bark up the wrong tree?"

When someone is "barking up the wrong tree," it means they're mistaking something for something else. It could apply to a mistaken identity or a mistaken fact about a person, and it usually involves blaming that wrong person.


What does "hit the sack" mean?

When it's time to "hit the sack," it means it's time to sleep. Well, maybe because beds were made of sacks before?


What does it mean to "twist someone's arm?"

To "twist someone's arm" means you want them to agree with you no matter what. And yes, it usually involves some sort of blackmail tendencies, so it could be a psychological kind of twisting.


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