|above board||If a situation or business is described as above board, it is open, honest and legal.|
There are not secret negotiations. Our dealings have always been above board.
| barefaced liar||Someone who lies easily, with a total lack of shame, is a barefaced liar.|
That barefaced liar stole my watch and said he’d found it!
|bend the truth||If you bend the truth, you say something that is not entirely true.|
Ok, I bent the truth a bit. I told him it was my natural colour, but I didn’t say that my hairdresser helped me to keep it natural!
|benefit of the doubt||If you give someone the benefit of the doubt, you choose to believe that the person is innocent, honest or telling the truth, because there is no evidence to the contrary.|
Although he found it hard to believe Tom’s explanation, the teacher decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
|black market||The black market refers to the illegal buying and selling of goods or currencies.|
Be careful of what you buy on the black market – it’s not always good quality.
|break every rule||If you behave in a completely unacceptable way, you break every rule in the book.|
Our competitors obtained the contract by breaking every rule in the book.
|buy a lemon||If buy something, especially a car, that is defective, unsatisfactory, constantly gives trouble or stops running after a short time, you|
buy a lemon.
The car I bought was a real lemon. It broke down two weeks later.
|in cahoots with someone||If one person is in cahoots with another, they are working in close partnership, usually conspiring to do something dishonest.|
There was a rumour that the Mayor was in cahoots with a chain of supermarkets.
|cards on the table||If you put your cards on the table, you speak honestly and openly about your feelings and intentions.|
Let’s clean the air and put our cards on the table.
|catch red-handed||If a person is caught red-handed, they are caught while they are doing something wrong or illegal.|
The police arrived as the burglar was leaving the house. He was caught red-handed.
|cook the books||A person who cooks the books is one who changes the facts or figures in the financial accounts, often in order to steal money.|
The actor discovered after a while that his agent was cooking the books.
|crooked as a dog’s hind leg||To say that someone is as crooked as a dog’s hind leg means that they are very dishonest indeed.|
He can’t be trusted – he’s as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.
|daylight robbery||The term daylight robbery is used when the price of something is thought to be much too high.|
$10 for an orange juice? That’s daylight robbery!
|economical with the truth||To say that a person is economical with the truth means that, without actually lying, they omit important facts or give incomplete information.|
The politician was accused of being economical with the truth.
|face value||If you take something at its face value, you assume that it is genuinely what it appears to be.|
The car seems to be in good condition, but don’t take it at its face value; get a mechanic to check it out.
|fair and square||If something is obtained or won fair and square, it is done in an honest and open manner, the rules are respected and there is no cheating or lying.|
Gavin won the competition fair and square – there was no doubt about the result.
|fall off the back of a lorry||Goods that have fallen off the back of a lorry are stolen goods.|
Judging by the price of that camera, it must have fallen off the back of a lorry!
|false pretences||If you obtain something under false pretences, you deceive others by lying about your identity, qualifications, financial or social position, in order to get what you want.|
The journalist obtained the interview under false pretences.
|five finger discount||If somebody gets a five-finger discount, they take something without paying. In other words, they steal.|
How could he afford that watch? Who knows – perhaps with a five-finger discount!
|fly-by-night||A fly-by-night person, business or venture is considered untrustworthy because they operate briefly and disappear overnight|
I bought it in one of those fly-by-night stores and now I can’t exchange it. The place has closed down.
|funny business||A business which is conducted in a deceitful, dishonest or unethical manner is called funny business.|
I’ve got suspicions about that association. I think they’re up to some funny business.
|grease someone’s palm||If you accuse someone of greasing somebody’s palm, you are accusing them of giving money to someone in order to gain an unfair advantage or to obtain something they want.|
In some countries, it is common practice to grease government officials’ palms.
|hand in glove||Two or more people who are in collusion, or work in close association, are said to be hand in glove.|
After the match, it was discovered that he was hand in glove with the referee.
|ill-gotten gains||Money, profit or benefits that are made in a dishonest or illegal manner are called ill-gotten gains.|
He won money by cheating and is now enjoying his ill-gotten gains.
|lead up the garden path||If someone leads you up the garden path, they deceive you by making you believe something which is not true.|
I still haven’t got the promotion I was promised. I think my boss is leading me up the garden path!
|lie one’s way in/out of||If you obtain something or get out of a situation by tellings lies, youlie your way in or out of it.|
He lied his way into a well-paid position.
|lie through one’s teeth||If you lie through your teeth, you lie openly and brazenly, knowing that what you are saying is completely false.|
I saw him breaking the window. If he denies it, he’s lying through his teeth.
|live a lie||If you spend your life hiding something important about yourself, or inventing something which is not true, you live a lie.|
To hide his humble origins, he told his wife he had no family and spent his life living a lie.
|money laundering||When people launder money, they manage to conceal the source of illegally-obtained money so that it is believed to be legitimate.|
Certain countries have been accused of facilitating money laundering.
|monkey business||An activity which is organized in a deceitful or dishonest way is calledmonkey business.|
The results announced seem suspicious – I think there’s some monkey business going on.
|oldest trick in the book||A well-known and much-used trick, which is still effective today, is called the oldest trick in the book.|
He made a noise to attract my attention while his accomplice stole my wallet – the oldest trick in the book!
|on the level||If you say that someone is on the level, you are referring to an honest and truthful person.|
Tell me straight – is he on the level or not?
|pack of lies||A large number of untruthful statements is referred to as a pack of lies.|
The story about her unhappy childhood turned out to be a pack of lies.
|pad the bill||If someone pads the bill, they add false items to a bill or invoice in order to increase the total amount.|
Check the invoice carefully before paying – he tends to pad the bill!
|play the game||If you play the game, you accept to do things according to generally-accepted customs or code of behaviour.|
Not all website owners play the game. Some download content from other sites without permission.
|play games with someone||If you are not completely honest, or behave in a way that is insincere, evasive or intentionally misleading, you are playing games with someone.|
Look, stop playing games with us. Just tell us if you’re interested in the project or not.
|play by the rules||If you play by the rules, you behave in a fair and honest way with people.|
You can trust him, don’t worry. He always plays by the rules.
|pull a fast one||To pull a fast one means to gain an advantage over someone by deceiving them.|
The street vendor pulled a fast one on Tom. He sold him a big bunch of roses but wrapped a smaller bunch while Tom was taking out his wallet.
|rip-off||To say that something is a rip-off means that it costs much more than it should.|
$10 for an orange juice? That’s a rip-off!
|scales fall from eyes||When the scales fall from your eyes, you finally understand the truth about something.|
It was only when he was arrested for theft that the scales fell from my eyes and I realized where his money came from.
|sharp practice||Trying to achieve something by using underhand, deceitful or dishonourable means, that are barely within the law, is called sharp practice.|
That company is under investigation for sharp practice so it’s better to avoid dealing with them.
|short end of the stick||If you get the short end of the stick, you are treated unfairly or receive less than what is due or deserved.|
They reached an agreement but Sophie felt she got the short end of the stick.
|shoulder surfing||The practice of looking over somebody’s shoulder when they are using a computer, cash dispenser or other electronic device, in order to obtain personal information (identification, account number, password, etc.) is called shoulder surfing.|
|siphon off||If someone siphons something off, they transfer something from one place to another, often illegally.|
It was discovered that he had siphoned off money from the business into an account in a tax haven.
|smoke and mirrors||An attempt to conceal or distort the truth (like a magician) in order to confuse people is called smoke and mirrors.|
The outgoing president used smoke and mirrors to make the situation look better.
|smokescreen||A smokescreen is an action or tactic intended to conceal or divert attention from your real intentions or activities.|
His travel business was just a smokescreen for his political activities.
|smoking gun||A smoking gun is a piece of evidence or the indisputable sign of someone’s guilt.|
The fingerprints left on the door-handle was the smoking gun that enabled the police to arrest him.
|sow the seeds of suspicion||If someone’s behaviour, or something they say, sows the seeds of suspicion, it leads people to suspect that they are guilty.|
The fact that the boy spent a lot of money after the burglary sowed the seeds of suspicion in the neigbours’ minds.
|spin a yarn||If you spin a yarn, you tell a story, usually a long improbable one, with distorted truths.|
He failed the exam and spun a yarn about the exam papers being stolen.
|sticky fingers||Someone who has sticky fingers has a tendency to steal.|
Items have been disappearing from the stock recently. Do any of the employees have sticky fingers?
|straight as an arrow||Someone who is as straight as an arrow is a morally upright person who is extremely honest.|
You can leave the keys with Andy. He’s as straight as an arrow.
|stretch the truth||When you stretch the truth, you exaggerate the facts or say things that are not exactly true.|
Some candidates are tempted to stretch the truth about their skills or work experience.
|take someone for a ride||To take someone for a ride means to cheat or deceive them.|
I discovered he had charged me double the normal fee. He really took me for a ride!
|taken to the cleaners||If someone is taken to the cleaners, they lose a lot of money in an unfair way, usually by being robbed or cheated.|
When the company Tom had invested in went bankrupt, he realized he had been taken to the cleaners.
|tall story||A tall story is a story which is difficult to believe because it sounds unlikely.|
What he said about a stolen invention sounds like a tall story to me.
|throw dust in eyes||If you throw dust in someone’s eyes, you prevent them from seeing the truth by misleading them.|
He threw dust in the old lady’s eyes by pretending to be a police officer, then stole her jewellery.