Here is a list of idioms that can be used for multiple sports. Did you know, a lot of these idioms are used in the business speaking world too. Try and learn a few to impress the boss at work.
Let’s take a look:
- against all odds
meaning – something happens although it seemed highly likely to fail
example – Against all odds, he made a full recovery.
- ahead of the game
meaning – gain/maintain an advantage over your competitors
example – The Japanese are always ahead of the game when it comes to technology.
- at this stage in the game
meaning – the current point in a situation/process
example – I can’t say anything at this stage in the game. All will be revealed in a few weeks.
- bad sport
meaning – a person who gets angry when they lose
example – I’m never playing Monopoly with Cara again. She’s such a bad sport.
- beat someone at their own game
meaning – use a similar strategy to your competitors/enemies
example – I’m offering weekend discounts at my salon to beat the competition at their own game.
- blow the whistle
meaning – report someone’s wrongdoing
example – Someone blew the whistle on Bill for employing illegal immigrants.
- game plan
meaning – a strategy for reaching a goal
example – My new restaurant isn’t making a profit, I need a new game plan.
- get/set the ball rolling
meaning – start a process
example – I want to sell my house. I’ll call the estate agent and get the ball rolling tomorrow.
- give the game away
meaning – reveal the secret
example – Who gave the game away when I begged you not to?
- good sport
meaning – a person who doesn’t get angry when they lose
example – Tom is such a good sport, he was sad to lose but still congratulated the winner.
- in a different league
meaning – much better at doing something
example – Freddie is in a different league than the other boys. He’ll play in the Premiership one day.
- in the same league
meaning – on the same level of skill (or not)
example – Sally is quite good, but she’s not in the same league as Judy.
- lap of honour
meaning – a celebratory circuit by the winner
example – The team are doing a lap of honour before they go back and celebrate.
- let the side down
meaning – disappoint your friends/family/colleagues
example – I want you all playing your best. If you let the side down, you’re out of the team.
- level playing field
meaning – equal/fail conditions for everyone involved
example – The favourites have had two players sent off, it’s now a level playing field
- lose ground
meaning – fall behind, fail to keep one’s position
example – The Lib Dems have lost ground, it’ll be interesting to see the results of the next election.
- lose one’s bottle/bottle out
meaning – decide not to do something because you are scared
example – I wanted to ask Lisa out, but I lost my bottle.
- major player
meaning – an important/leading company in an industry
example – If we can develop cheap solar panels, we’ll become a major player.
- make the grade
meaning – reach the desired standard
example – I wish him all the luck in the world, but I don’t think he’ll make the grade.
- meet one’s match
meaning – your opponent is as good as you
example – The new guy Liam is a real joker. Alex has finally met his match.
- name of the game
meaning – essential/important aspects for success
example – I love the Hunger games; the name of the game is survival.
- no sweat
meaning – easy, require little effort
example – Calum said he can bench press 80 kg no sweat. I think he’s lying.
- no-win situation
meaning – a situation where there is no chance of success
example – I’m in a no-win situation. Leave my job and have no money or stay and be unhappy.
- out of bounds
meaning – beyond the official boundaries
example – You can’t ask him any questions about his wife. Personal questions are out of bounds.
- out of someone’s league
meaning – too good/expensive for a person to have
example – We love the house, but it’s out of our league. Maybe if we win the lottery.
- play away (from home)
meaning – cheat on your partner, be unfaithful
example – My boyfriend has been working late a lot recently. Do you think he’s playing away?
- play ball
meaning – cooperate
example – My ex isn’t playing ball. I’m going to have to involve my lawyer.
- play by the rules
meaning – follow the rules
example – No biting, scratching, or hitting in the head. If you don’t play by the rules, you’ll be disqualified.
- play for time
meaning – delay something/someone to gain more time
example – The presentation isn’t opening. You play for time whilst I sort it.
- root for
meaning – encourage/support
example – I always root for the underdog.
- settle a score
meaning – get revenge/punish someone
example – The reigning champion ha a score to settle with the youngster.
- sporting chance
meaning – a fair chance of success/a good chance something will happen
example – There’s a sporting chance I’ll meet you for a drink.
- still waters run deep
meaning – shy/quiet/calm people are often interesting
example – I spoke to Geeky Graham today. It’s true what they say, still waters run deep.
- take sides
meaning – give support to one person/group in a dispute
example – My kids took sides with their mother, now they don’t want to see me.
- team player
meaning – a person who works well as a member of a team and puts personal goals aside
example – Shaun isn’t a team player; he only cares about himself.
- the odds stacked against someone
meaning – unlikely to succeed because you are at a disadvantage
example – I don’t think I’ll get the job; the odds are stacked against me.
- there is no I in team
meaning – don’t work alone, work together to achieve a result
example – There’s no I in team, remember that on the pitch today boys.
- throw in at the deep end
meaning – make someone do something difficult without preparing them for it
example – I’ve never baked, and I’ve got to make a wedding cake. I’m being thrown in at the deep end.
meaning – achieve the same score as another competitor
example – We were tying up until the 89th minute then we scored.
- time out
meaning – take a break/rest from what you’re doing/your work
example – Let’s have a time out and get a coffee, my head is spinning.
- two can play at that game
meaning – you can copy another person’s strategy
example – The enemy has started using cannons. Two can play at that game.
- waiting game
meaning – deliberately do nothing and wait and see how others react/what happens
example – I’ve applied for 14 jobs today. Now it’s a waiting game to see who responds.
- whole different/new ballgame
meaning – a totally different situation from what you’re used to
example – I used to ride horses, but playing polo is a whole new ballgame.
- win-win (situation)
meaning – both outcomes are beneficial
example – I’ll let you have some of my pizza if you give me some of your fries. It’s a win-win.