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.
  • tie
    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.

any sport idioms – picture examples

sport expressions and sayings
against all odds
ahead of the game
at this stage in the game
bad sport
beat someone at their own game
blow the whistle
sport sayings - game plan
idioms related to sports - get the ball rolling
sport sayings - give the game away
sport sayings - good sport
sport sayings - in a different league
idioms related to sports - in the same league
lap of honour
let the side down
level playing field
lose ground
sport sayings - lose one’s bottle
sport sayings - major player
sport phrases - make the grade
sport phrases - meet one’s match
sport phrases - name of the game
sport phrases - no sweat
sport phrases - no win situation
sport phrases - out of bounds
sport phrases - out of someone's league
sport phrases - play away (from home)
sport phrases - play ball
sport phrases - play by the rules
sport expressions - play for time
sport expressions - root for
sport expressions - settle a score
sport expressions - sporting chance
sport expressions - still waters run deep
sport expressions - take sides
sport expressions - team player
sport expressions - the odds stacked against someone
sport idioms - there is no I in team
sport idioms - throw in at the deep end
sport idioms - tie
sport idioms - time out
sport idioms - two can play at that game
sport idioms - waiting game
sport idioms - whole different/new ballgame
sport idioms - win win