|all told||All told means the final number, when everything has been counted.|
The number of visitors to the exhibition, all told, was 2543.
|ballpark figure||If someone gives a ballpark figure, they give an approximate number or a rough estimate of the cost of something.|
I don’t know exactly how much it cost, but a ballpark figure would be around $100 000.
|in dribs and drabs||If something comes in dribs and drabs, it arrives little by little, in small amounts or numbers.|
Instead of the crowd expected, people arrived in dribs and drabs.
|have one over theeight||If a person has had one over the eight, they are slightly drunk.|
Don’t listen to him! Can’t you see he’s had one over the eight!
|at the eleventh hour||If something happens at the eleventh hour, it happens when it is almost too late, or at the last possible moment.|
Our team won after they scored a goal at the eleventh hour.
|fifth wheel||This expression refers to a person who find themselves in a situation where their presence is unnecessary and as a result they feel useless.|
Everyone seemed to have a specific role except me. I felt like a fifth wheel
|first and foremost||This expression is used to state what you consider to be more important than anything ese.|
First and foremost I want to thank our hosts for their wonderful reception.
|first base||When you get to (or reach) first base, you make progress or begin to have success with someone or something.|
If you go to the interview dressed like that, you won’t get to first base!
|first come first served||This expression means that there will be no favouritism or preferential treatment. People will be served strictly in the order they arrive.|
Tickets for the match will be sold on a ‘first come first served’ basis.
|(at) first hand||If you experience something yourself directly, without any intermediairy, you experience it (at) first hand.|
Getting to see the performance (at) first hand is much better than watching it on television.
|first out of the gate||If you are first out of the gate, you are the first to make a start at something that others have also accepted to do.|
Sandra was so enthusiastic about the project that she was first out of the gate.
|in the first place||Something that is done in the first place is done at the beginning, before anything else.|
Why didn’t you tell me he was your boyfriend in the first place?
|first water||Something that is of the first water is of the finest or most exceptional quality (like being compared to a diamond).|
The violinist gave a performance that was of the first water
|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!
|five o’clock shadow||This expression refers to a patch of stubble on the face of a man who hasn’t shaved for at least a day.|
He looked tired and had a five o’clock shadow.
|forty winks||If you have forty winks, you have a short sleep or rest, generally during the day.|
Dad likes to have forty winks after a game of golf.
|on all fours||If you are on all fours, you are down on your hands and knees.|
When I arrived, he was on all fours playing with his grandchildren.
|give or take (amount or quantity)||This term is used when expressing an amount or estimate that is not exactly right. It means ‘plus or minus’, ‘more or less’, or ‘aproximately’.|
The nearest town is about 100 miles away, give or take a few miles.
|half the battle||This expression refers to a significant part of the effort or work needed to achieve something.|
We’ve already obtained a loan for the project – that’s half the battle!
|half an eye||If you have or keep half an eye on something, you watch it without giving it your full attention.|
She kept half an eye on the TV screen while she was preparing dinner.
|half a mind||If you have half a mind to do something, you are thinking seriously about it but have not yet reached a decision.|
I’ve half a mind to start up my own business but first I need some advice.
|chance in a million||A chance in a million is a very small chance, or no chance at all, that something will happen.|
There’s a chance in a million of finding the key I lost on the golf course.
|look like a milliondollars||If you look like a million dollars, you look extremely good.|
With a tan and a new hairstyle she looked a million dollars!
|never in a millionyears||This expression means ‘absolutely never’.|
I will never in a million years understand why Anne married Bob.
|nine-day wonder||An event which is a nine-day wonder causes interest, surprise or excitement for a short time, but it doesn’t last.|
His sudden departure was a niine-day wonder but he was soon forgotten.
|nine times out of ten||When something happens nine times out of ten, it is what usually happens.|
The public transport system is very bad. Trains arrive late nine times out of ten.
|on cloud nine||A person who is on cloud nine is very happy because something wonderful has happened.|
When the boss announced my promotion, I was on cloud nine!
|dressed up to nines||To describe someone as dressed up to the nines means that they are wearing very smart or glamorous clothes.|
Caroline must be going to a party – she’s dressed up to the nines.
|talk nineteen to the dozen||Someone who talks nineteen to the dozen speaks very quickly.|
He was talking nineteen to the dozen so I didn’t catch the whole story.
|number cruncher||This is a humorous way of referring to someone who is an accountant or who is very good at working with numbers and calculations.|
She’s a number cruncher who perfectly understands the organization’s financial situation.
|safety in numbers||This expression means that being part of a group makes people feel more secure and more confident when taking action.|
None of the group went sightseeing alone, knowing there was safety in numbers.
|one in the eye||If an event or development is an unexpected defeat or disappointment for someone, it is one in the eye for that person.|
My promotion was one in the eye for my ambitious colleague.
|one fell swoop||If something is accomplished at (or in) one fell swoop, it is done in a single action, usually rapidly and ruthlessly.|
The three houses were demolished at one fell swoop.
|one foot in the grave||A person who is either very old or very ill and close to death has onefoot in the grave.|
It’s no use talking to the owner. The poor man has one foot in the grave.
|one good turn deserves another||If someone helps you, it is natural and right to help them in return.|
We helped Alex and Sara when they moved into their new house, just as they helped us last year; one good turn deserves another.
|one hand washes the other (and together they wash the face) ||This expression means that when people cooperate and work well together, there is a better chance of a achieving results.|
|one horse town||A place referred to as a one horse town is a small, boring town where nothing much ever happens.|
I wish my grandparents didn’t live in that one-horse town. It’s such a boring place!
|one over the eight||If a person has had one over the eight, they are slightly drunk.|
Don’t listen to him! Can’t you see he’s had one over the eight!
|one step ahead||When you are one step ahead of someone else, you achieve something faster than they do, or you have a slight advantage over them.|
The company is successful because they’re always one step ahead of their competitors.
|one track mind||If you have a one-track mind, you have a tendency to think about only one subject.|
The boy has a one-track mind; all he thinks about is football!
|one too many||Someone who has had one too many has drunk too much alcohol.|
I think Tony’s had one too many – he’s talking rubbish.
|one’s number is up||To say that one’s number is up means that either a person is in serious difficulty and something bad is going to happen, or the time has come when they will die.|
The police have located the escaped prisoner so it looks as if his number is up!
|one’s own undoing||If you do something that is the cause of your own failure, loss or downfall, it is your own undoing. You can blame nobody but yourself.|
If he continues to gamble like that, it will be his own undoing.
|one-upmanship||This term refers to the art of gaining and keeping an advantage over other people.|
He’s a successful man, but his one-upmanship has left him with few friends.
|look out for numberone||If you take care of yourself first, and look after your own interests rather than those of other people, you look out for number one.|
Andy’s father told him that looking out for number one should be his first priority.
|second to none||Something that is second to none is excellent or much better than any other.|
The service was perfect and the food was second to none.
|on second thoughts||‘On second thoughts’ means that after giving the matter more thought, you have changed your mind.|
My idea was to move to an apartment, but on second thoughts, I’d rather have a garden.
|in seventh heaven||If you are in seventh heaven, you are extremely happy.|
Every time she wins a match, she’s in seventh heaven!
|six of one and half a dozen of the other||This expression means that ther is no real difference between two choices; both are equally good or equally bad.|
I didn’t know who to vote for. It was six of one and half a dozen of the other!
|at sixes and sevens||If someone is at sixes and sevens, they are in a state of confusion or not very well organized.|
The managers were at sixes and sevens when they were informed of the Chairman’s visit.
|a thousand times||This expresses exasperation at having constantly to repeat the same thing.|
I’ve told you a thousand times to wipe your feet before coming in!
|catch twenty two||A catch 22 situation refers to a frustrating situation where you cannot do one thing without doing a second, and you cannot do the second before doing the first.|
I can’t get a job without a work permit, and I can’t get a work permit without a job. It’s a catch 22 situation!
|twenty-four-seven||This term refers to something which is available or happens twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.|
The tourist office provided a list of 24-7 supermarkets in the area.
|two of a kind||People who are two of a kind are similar in character, attitude or tastes.|
Pete and Ben are two of a kind; they enjoy sports and are very competitive.
|two can play at that game||You say this to tell someone that you can behave towards them in the same unpleasant way that they have behaved towards you.|
He refuses to take my call? Tell him two can play at that game!
|two-faced||Someone who is two-faced is deceitful or insincere; they will say one thing to your face and something else when you are not there.|
I don’t trust Billy. I find him two-faced.
|two left feet||If you have two left feet, you are clumsy or awkward in your movements.|
I’m afraid I’m a bad dancer. I’ve got two left feet!
|in two minds||If you are in two minds about something, you have difficulty deciding what to do.|
I’m in two minds about whether or not to accept the offer.
|takes two to tango||You say this when you think that a difficult situation cannot be the fault of one person alone.|
We’ve heard Fred’s side of the story – but it takes two to tango!
|two peas in a pod||Two people who are like two peas in a pod are very similar in appearance.|
The two brothers are very alike – they’re like two peas in a pod!
|in two shakes of a lamb’s tail||To do something in two shakes of a lamb’s tail means to do it very quickly.|
Wait for me. I’ll be ready in two shakes (of a lamb’s tail).
|two-time someone||If one person two-times another, they cheat on their partner by having a romantic relationship with another person at the same time.|
Sally left Harry when she discovered he was two-timing her.
|two’s company, three’s a crowd||This is said of two people, particulary lovers, who would prefer to be alone together rather than to have someone else with them.|
I’d rather not come to the cinema with you, thanks. Two’s company …!
|lesser of two evils||If you choose the lesser of two evils, you opt for the less unpleasant of two poor options.|
I didn’t want to go. Choosing the train instead of driving was the lesser of two evils; at least I could relax on the way.
|no two ways about||To say that there are no two ways about something means that there is only one suitable ay of dealing with something.|
There are no two ways about it. You can’t accept the money, so you must give it back.
|that makes two of us||This expression indicates agreement with what has just been said.|
“I found his speech rather boring.” “That makes two of us!”
|put two and two together||To put two and two together means to reach the right conclusion based on what you see or the information you receive.|
When she saw Jill and Ben holding hands, it wasn’t hard to put two and two together!
|zero in on something||If you zero in on something, you focus all your attention on that particular thing.|
The boss immediately zeroed in on the sales figures.
|zero tolerance||If an activity or a certain type of behaviour is given zero tolerance, it will not be accepted, not even once.|
The authorities have announced zero tolerance for smoking in public buildings.