Body Idioms in English

I’m going to stick my neck out and say that you probably don’t know of what some of these idioms mean. But don’t worry, let your hair down and we’ll have some fun with these everyday English idioms that involve body parts, including “get cold feet”, “get something off your chest”, “play it by ear”, and more. I’ll give you real-life examples of how these expressions are used in daily conversations, so you’ll never feel like you’re in over your head!

Take the QUIZ:


Hi. Welcome back to My name’s Adam. Today’s lesson is going to be about idioms, everyday idioms that you will hear people use quite regularly in many situations, and we’re going to look at body idioms. All of these idioms have some part of the body inside them.

Now, again, just a little refresh… To refresh our memories: What is an idiom? An idiom is an expression whose words alone don’t mean what the actual idiom means. What that means is the words themselves and the actual meaning of the idiom are completely different.

So, for example: “to get cold feet”. Now, of course, in the wintertime if you take your socks off, your feet are going to get cold, but that’s not what this means. “To get cold feet” means to get scared. You’re about to do something, you’ve been planning it, you know it’s coming, you want to do it, but then at the last minute, you get cold feet. It means you get scared and you don’t want to do it anymore; you want to back away from doing this. Okay? You want to back out of it. So, the most common example of getting cold feet is just before your wedding, and this happens to a lot of men. Tomorrow’s the wedding, let’s say, I’m getting married tomorrow, and tonight I’m thinking: “Oh my god, this is my last night of freedom. I don’t want to do it. Forget it. Wedding’s off.” So I have cold feet. Very common, happens to a lot of people. Doesn’t have to be about wedding, it could be about anything; you’re about to start a new job, you’re about to move to a new house, you’re about to do anything – last minute, you get scared, you don’t want to do it anymore.

“To get something off one’s chest”, to get something off your chest. Now, this sounds like pretty straightforward, but if you have something on your chest it means you’re holding it and it’s very heavy, and you really just want to… You just want to get it out. You want to express something. It could be a secret, it could be a feeling you have for someone, it could be a complaint you have, but you just didn’t want to say it. You’ve been holding it inside and holding it inside, and it’s been sitting right here, and it’s heavy, and you don’t want to carry it anymore. You want to get it off your chest. So, you go into your boss and you say: “Boss, I got to get something off my chest. You’re a terrible boss. I don’t want to work for you anymore. Either pay me a lot more money or I’m leaving.” Or there’s a girl you really like or a boy you really like, and you go up to this person and you say: “I have to get something off my chest. I’ve been in love with you for like five years. I can’t hold it inside anymore. I have to get it off my chest, so I’m telling you.” Okay? Then you feel much lighter, in theory.

“To be in over one’s head”. Over one’s head. Now, technically, if you go into the swimming pool and you go below the surface of the water, then you’re in over your head, but it’s the same idea in other situations. If you’re doing something that you can’t handle, it’s too difficult for you, then you’re in over your head. So, for example, you got a job… You just finished university, you got a job, and somebody hired you to be the manager of a whole department, and you think: “Yeah, no problem. I can do this.” You have no experience doing it, but yeah, you can do it. So you go and it’s… Right away you notice that it’s too difficult for you, you don’t know what you’re doing. The staff don’t like you, they don’t respect you, they don’t listen to you. You don’t know what to do because you’re in over your head. You’ve taken on a job that’s too big for you. Okay?

“To let one’s hair down”. Now, this obviously sounds like it should be for women, but it could be for men, too. “To let your hair down” means to relax, just go do something fun, enjoy yourself, do whatever you want. We… Generally, we do use this for women. For men, we say: “Loosen your tie”. It’s the same idea. “To loosen the tie” means relax, don’t be so serious, don’t be so stiff. Relax, have fun, do whatever you want. Tomorrow’s another day, so let your hair down.

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“To stick one’s neck out”. So if you stick… If I stick my neck out, you can come and chop it off, and I’m dead. So, “to stick one’s neck out” is to take a risk, to take a big risk. So if you… If you gamble, if you invest in something and you put all your money into this investment, then you’re sticking your neck out.

Simply listen and repeat until you feel more confident. Once you do, mute the audio on the video and try to speak as the video goes. Give it a try and have fun!

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