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:

  • a game plan
    meaning – a strategy for reaching a goal
    example – My new restaurant isn’t making a profit, I need a new game plan.
  • 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.
  • 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.

sports idioms – picture examples

sport expressions and sayings
sport sayings - a game plan
against all odds
ahead of the game
at this stage in the game
bad sport
beat someone at their own game
blow the whistle
idioms related to sports - get the ball rolling meaning and examples -
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