Common Idioms - L

Idioms - L

labor of love

- something done for personal pleasure and not for money

The book that he wrote was a labor of love and he doesn't expect to make any money from it.

lady killer

- a man who some women find very charming and attractive

The man in the movie was a lady killer who broke many women`s hearts before he left them.

lady`s man

- a man who is popular with women

He is a lady`s man who always seems to have a lot of women interested in him.

laid up

- be confined to bed or unfit for work

He has been laid up for a few days because of a cold.

lame duck

- public official who has a short time left to serve in office and therefore has less power than before

He is a lame duck president so it is difficult for him to get things accomplished.

land on one`s feet

- come out of a bad situation successfully

He always manages to land on his feet no matter how difficult the situation is.

lap up

- eat or drink with the tongue

The dog lapped up the milk that his master had given him.

lap up

- take in eagerly

He lapped up the praise that his boss gave him for the recently completed project.

lash out

- try suddenly to hit someone

He suddenly lashed out and hit the man who was sitting beside him.

lash out

- attack someone with words

They were walking along the beach when she suddenly lashed out in anger at her boyfriend.

last but not least

- in the last place but not the least important

Last but not least he came up to the front of the class to receive his report card.

last straw

- the last insult or mistake that one can endure and which then causes some reaction

The fourth time he came late was the last straw and we finally fired him.

last word

- the last remark in an argument, the final say in deciding something

She always expects to have the last word when she and her husband go to the store to buy something important.

laugh off

- not take seriously

He laughed off the attempt of his boss to tell him that he should try and come to work on time.

(not) lay a finger on someone

- not touch someone, not bother to do something (not even a little)

He was told by the police never to lay a finger on his wife again.

lay an egg

- fail to win the interest or favor of an audience

Although he was supposed to be a good magician, his performance was terrible and it laid an egg with the audience.

lay away

- save

They are trying to lay away some money for their holiday next year.

layaway plan

- a plan in which one pays some money down and then pays the rest little by little and the store holds the article until the full price has been paid

He decided to buy the television set on the department store`s layaway plan.

lay down the law

- tell someone what to do using your power or influence

The new management plans to lay down the law to the workers regarding long lunch breaks.

lay eyes on

- see

I have never laid eyes on a more beautiful dog in my life.

lay hands on something

- get hold of or find something

If I can lay my hands on a slide projector I will show you the pictures of my trip tonight.

lay hands on someone

- do violence to, harm, hurt

He said that if he ever lays hands on the person who stole his car he will take him directly to the police.

lay hold of

- get possession of

If I can lay hold of a car this weekend we can go for a drive.

lay in

- store up a supply of something, get and keep for future use

They are trying to lay in as much food as possible before winter comes.

lay (light) into

- attack physically, do (eat) something with energy

He laid into the steak as soon as the waiter brought it to his table.

lay (light) into

- attack with words

As soon as I came into work this morning she laid (lit) into me about my poor sales performance last month.

lay it on the line

- say plainly so that there can be no doubt, tell truthfully

The librarian finally had to lay it on the line and told everyone not to bring drinks into the library.

lay it on thick

- praise someone too much

He really began to lay it on thick when he met me at the party.

lay low

- hide, keep out of sight for awhile

He decided to lay low for awhile until his friend forgot that he had damaged his car.

lay off (someone)

- get rid of workers when business is bad

Six hundred workers at the automobile factory were recently laid off.

lay off

- stop bothering, leave alone

The players were told by the coach to lay off teasing the new player so that he could relax before the game.

lay off

- stop using or taking (drugs/cigarettes)

I was told by my doctor to lay off smoking or I would be very sick in the future.

lay one`s cards on the table

- let someone know one`s position and feelings openly, deal honestly about something

He decided to lay his cards on the table and tell his boss about the job offer from the other company.

lay out

- spend or pay some money

He will have to lay out a lot of money for his new apartment.

lay out

- plan something

They will lay out their plan for the new building at the next meeting.

lay over

- arrive in one place and wait some time before continuing a journey

We were told that we will have to lay over in London for nine hours before we go on to Kenya.

lay to rest

- get rid of, put away permanently, stop

They have been trying to lay to rest the rumors about the financial problems in the company.

lay up

- take out of active service, put in a boat dock or a garage

The weather was getting cold so they decided to lay up their boat for the winter.

lay up

- collect a supply of something, save for future use, store

They are trying to lay up some canned fruit for the winter.

lay waste

- destroy and leave in ruins, wreck

The army troops laid waste to the enemy territory.

lead a dog`s life

- live a hard life, work hard and be treated unkindly

He says that he has been leading a dog`s life since he started his new job.

lead a merry chase

- delay or escape capture by someone, make a person work hard

He led the investigators on a merry chase before they finally arrested him.

lead by the nose

- have full control of, make or persuade someone to do anything you want

He isn`t very aggressive and always lets his boss lead him by the nose.

lead off

- begin, start, open

The golfer was the first to lead off in the tournament.

lead on

- insincerely encourage

I think he was leading me on when he told me about the new job.

lead the way

- go before and show how to go somewhere, guide

I had to lead the way because nobody else knew where the new office was located.

lean on

- pressure someone by blackmailing or threats of physical violence to make the person comply with a request

The gang decided to lean on the small shop owner to get him to sell his property.

learn the ropes

- learn how to do a job

He is a new employee and is still learning the ropes.

leave a bad taste in one`s mouth

- leave a bad impression, make one feel disgusted

The way that the company fired the workers left a bad taste in everyone`s mouth.

leave alone

- don`t disturb someone

Please leave me alone so I can finish this essay.

leave behind

- leave something somewhere

I left my coat behind in the restaurant.

leave hanging (in the air)

- leave undecided or unsettled

Whether or not they will be leaving next year was left hanging in the air at the end of the meeting.

leave (someone) holding the bag

- leave someone else to take the blame

He left me holding the bag when he ran away from the accident.

leave in the lurch

- desert or leave alone and in trouble, refuse to help or support someone

He left me in the lurch when he didn`t come over to help me although he had promised to earlier in the day.

leave no stone unturned

- try in every way, do everything possible

The police left no stone unturned when they were looking for the little girl who was lost.

leave out

- omit

He told me about the accident but he left out some of the main points.

leave (let) well enough alone

- be satisfied with something that is good enough

You should let well enough alone and be happy with your work schedule the way it is.

left-handed compliment

- an ambiguous compliment interpreted as offensive

He gave her a left-handed compliment when he said that her dyed hair looked nice.

leg man

- someone who performs messenger services, an errand boy

He was working as a leg man for the motion picture company.

leg to stand on

- a firm foundation of facts, facts to support one`s claims

She doesn`t have a leg to stand on as far as her excuses for not finishing her work goes.

leg work

- physical work

He was forced to do all of the leg work preparing for the meeting because his assistant was sick.

let alone

- certainly not

I don`t have enough money to go to a movie let alone go on a holiday.

let bygones be bygones

- forget about problems that happened in the past

We need to let bygones be bygones and forget about our past differences.

let down

- fail to do as well as expected, disappoint

He let down his parents when he failed the university entrance exams.

let down easy

- refuse or say no to someone in a pleasant way

I will talk to her tomorrow and try and let her down easy about her not getting the promotion.

let down one`s hair

- relax, act freely and naturally

Everybody at the party let down their hair and had a good time.

let (something) go

- pay no attention to, neglect

She seems to be letting her appearance go since she lost her job.

let go

- allow something to pass, do nothing about something

Although I was angry at his remark I decided to let it go.

let go

- discharge from a job, fire

The company has decided to let go several hundred workers in order to become profitable again.

let go of

- release

He let go of the rope and the suitcase fell from the bus.

let grass grow under one`s feet

- be idle, be lazy, waste time

He is always working hard and is not the type of person to let grass grow under his feet.

let (someone) have it

- hit someone hard

He really let the other man have it when they got into a fight on the bus.

let it all hang out

- not to disguise anything, let the truth be known

She decided to let it all hang out and told her boss about the mistakes she had made with the new sales account.

let it lay

- forget it, leave it alone

You should let it lay and stop worrying about what she did to you last year.

let it rip

- become involved and make the most of something, really try to win

He let it rip and set off from the shore in the motorboat.

let loose

- set free, give up one`s hold on something, release something being held

They decided to let loose the injured bird that they had found in the park.

let (someone) know

- tell, inform

Let me know when you are ready to go to the movie.

let off

- discharge (a gun), explode

The children let off many firecrackers during the festival.

let off steam

- get rid of your extra energy or strong feelings by doing some activity

He was very angry at first but he has let off a lot of steam and has calmed down now.

let (someone) off the hook

- excuse someone from a penalty or promise

He let me off the hook and I didn`t have to stay after work and help clean the office.

let on

- reveal, inform

Please don`t let on that you saw me at the movie last night.

let on

- try to make people believe something, pretend

He tried to let on that he didn`t want the job but actually he does.

let out

- allow to go out or escape

I let out our dog this morning and he hasn`t come home yet.

let out

- allow to be known, tell

They let out the details of the restructuring plan late last night so we haven`t had time to talk about them yet.

let out

- make longer or looser (clothes), allow a rope to slip out little by little

I had to go to the tailors to have them let out my sports jacket.

let out

- dismiss or be dismissed (from class or practice etc.)

Everyone was let out from class early yesterday because of the bad weather.

let (something) ride

- continue without changing a situation

We should forget about his recent problems at work and just let the whole matter ride.

let sleeping dogs lie

- don`t make trouble if you don`t have to

You should let sleeping dogs lie and not worry about what she said to you last summer.

let the cat out of the bag

- reveal a secret

Don`t let the cat out of the bag about the surprise party for the boss.

let the chips fall where they may

- don`t worry about the results of your actions

I am not going to worry about whether or not the company will go broke or not. I will let the chips fall where they may.

let up

- become less or weaker, become slower or stop

The rain finally let up around noon so we were able to go back outside.

let up

- do less or go slower or stop, stop working too hard

He was told by his doctor to let up on his work schedule or he will become sick in the future.

lie in state

- after death a famous person lies in a state of honor (in an open coffin) so the public can see their body

The President lay in state for three days after his death.

lie in wait

- watch from hiding in order to attack or surprise someone

The police decided to lie in wait for the bank robbers to appear at the bank.

lie low

- stay quietly out of sight, try not to attract attention

He is very angry at you so I think that you should lie low for a few days until he calms down.

life of Riley

- a soft easy life, pleasant way of living

He has been living the life of Riley since he retired from his job last year.

lift a finger (hand)

- do something, do one`s share, help

Although he is a nice person he will never lift a finger to help anyone else.

light up

- suddenly look pleased and happy

As soon as I told him about our summer holiday plans his face lit up and he started smiling.

like father, like son

- a son usually acts like his father

Like father, like son the man said as he watched the boy playing baseball exactly like his father.

like a ton of bricks

- strongly or forcefully

The news of his retirement hit me like a ton of bricks.

like crazy

- very fast, with great energy

They were running like crazy but still they couldn`t catch up with their friend.

like hell

- with much effort and energy, not so, untrue

I had to run like hell this morning in order to catch the bus for work.

like mad

- very fast, with great energy

I worked like mad but I was unable to finish the project by noon as I had hoped.

like water off a duck`s back

- without effect, without changing one`s feelings or opinion

He always criticizes his friend who always ignores it so it falls away like water off a duck`s back.

line up

- take places in line or formation, stand one behind another

We were forced to line up in front of the movie theater for over one hour.

line up

- adjust correctly

First he lined up the two pieces of wood before he nailed them together.

line up

- arrange, make ready for action

We were unable to line up a speaker for Sunday evening so we will cancel the meeting.

lip service

- support shown by words only and not by action

They paid lip service to the proposal but I don`t think that they really support it.

little by little

- gradually

He broke his leg while skiing but little by little it is getting better.

little frog in a big pond

- an unimportant person in a large group or organization

He transferred to the headquarters branch but he is a little frog in a big pond and nobody knows him now.

little pitchers have big ears

- little children often overhear things that they are not supposed to hear

Little pitchers have big ears she said when she saw her daughter standing at the door listening to her talking to her husband.

live down

- remove blame or distrust by good conduct, cause to be forgiven by not repeating something

He is trying to live down his reputation of being a hard person to work for.

live from hand to mouth

- live on little money

Her brother is an artist and has to live from hand to mouth because he has no money.

live high off the hog

- live very luxuriously or comfortably

He has been living high off the hog since he won the money in the lottery.

live it up

- have a good time

He likes to live it up every weekend when he gets paid.

live out of a suitcase

- stay away from your home with only the belongings in your suitcase

I dislike this job because I am often on a business trip and must live out of my suitcase.

live up to

- come up to, agree with, act according to

He is trying very hard to live up to his reputation as a smart busnessman.

living end

- great, fantastic, the ultimate

She said that her new boyfriend was the living end.


- have lots of money

His new boss is really loaded.

lock the barn door after the horse is stolen

- be careful or try to make something safe when it is too late

If you try and prevent a flood after the rains have started it is like locking the barn door after the horse is stolen.

lock up

- to be assured of success

The candidate has already locked up the nomination to be a candidate for president in the next election.

long face

- a sad look, a disappointed look

He had a long face when he came into work this morning. What is the matter with him?

long haul

- a long distance or trip

He is a long-haul trucker and is always out of town working.

long haul

- a long period of time during which work continues or something is done

He has decided to stay here for the long haul and will not return to his home country for awhile.

long shot

- a bet or other risk taken though not likely to succeed

It was a long shot that he would get the job so he was very happy when he did get it.

look after someone

- take care or attend to someone

She has been looking after her mother since her recent illness.

look a gift horse in the mouth

- complain if a gift is not perfect

Even if you don`t like the present from the company you shouldn`t complain. Remember don`t look a gift horse in the mouth.

look at the world through rose-colored glasses

- see only the good things about something, be too optimistic

I told him not to be so naive and always look at the world through rose-colored glasses.

look down one`s nose at someone or something

- show your dislike of someone or something

He always looks down his nose at the other members of his class.

look down on someone

- regard with contempt or a feeling of superiority

She looks down on the activities and life of most small towns.

look for

- think likely, expect

They are looking for John to become the next sales director of the company.

look for

- try to find, search for, hunt

She has been looking for her credit card all morning but she can`t find it.

look forward to something

- anticipate with pleasure

He`s been looking forward to the concert for a long time.

look in on

- go to see, make a short visit with, make a call on

Could you please look in on the baby and see if she is sleeping.

look into

- investigate or check something

They have been looking into the cause of the accident for many months.

look like a million dollars

- look well and prosperous, appear healthy and happy

He was looking like a million dollars when I saw him at the party last weekend.

look like the cat that ate (swallowed) the canary

- seem very self-satisified like you have just had some kind of success

He looked like the cat that ate the canary when he came in with a smile on his face.

look on

- be a spectator

There were over a hundred people who gathered to look on after the accident.

look out

- take care, be careful, be on guard

Look out! There is a large truck coming down the highway.

look out

- be alert or watchful, keep looking for something

Could you please look out for any old Elvis Presley records that you may find.

look out

- provide protection and care

Please look out for my sister when she stays with you this summer.

look over something

- inspect, survey or examine

Please take some time to look over these documents before you sign them.

look to

- attend to, get ready for, take care of

She is a wonderful nurse and spends a great deal of time looking to the needs of her patients.

look to

- go for help to, depend on

He always looks to his mother for help when he has a problem.

look (something) up

- search for something in a dictionary or other book

I`ll look up their name in the telephone book.

look (someone) up

- seek and find

When I was in New York I looked up my friend from university.

look up to

- think of someone as a good example to copy, respect someone

I always look up to the president of our company as someone I would like to be like.

loose ends

- without something definite to do

He has been at loose ends since he lost his job.

lord it over

- act as the superior and master of someone, be bossy over someone

She likes to lord it over the other members of the staff since she became a supervisor.

lose face

- be embarrassed or ashamed by an error or failure, lose dignity

He lost face when his employees decided not to support him during the meeting.

lose ground

- go backward, become weaker, not improve

The government has been losing ground in their fight against inflation.

lose heart

- become discouraged

She has begun to lose heart in her studies to learn the piano.

lose one`s marbles

- go crazy or act irrationally

He seems to have lost his marbles and doesn`t make any sense at all.

lose one`s shirt

- lose a lot of money

I think he is going to lose his shirt on that new business venture.

lose one`s way

- become lost

The first time she went to New York City she lost her way.

lose one`s temper

- become angry

He lost his temper when the child broke the dish.

lose out

- fail to win, miss first place in a contest

He lost out on a chance to go to Mexico City because he was too busy with other things.

lose sight of

- forget, fail to see

Don't lose sight of the main reason that you are planning to go on the business trip.

lose touch with

- fail to keep in contact or communication with someone

I lost touch with everyone who I worked with at my summer job.

lose track of

- lose contact with someone (or something)

I`ve lost track of many of my friends from high school.


- a noisy, boastful or foolish talker

He is a loudmouth and nobody at work likes him.

louse up

- throw into confusion, make a mess of, spoil

She loused up her job interview and has no chance at all now to get the job.

lover`s lane

- a hidden road or walkway where lovers walk or park in the evening

After the movie they drove to the local lover`s lane.


- the inside facts of a matter, the total truth

I met with him after the presentation and he gave me the lowdown on the new computer equipment.

luck out

- suddenly get lucky when it looks like you won`t succeed

He lucked out with the concert tickets and was able to get four of them.

lucky star

- a certain star or planet which is thought to bring a person good luck and success in life

You should thank your lucky star that you don`t have to go to work on a rainy day like today.

Idiom Quizzes - L

Choose an idiom at the bottom to replace the expression in the brackets below:

1. She is working as a cashier for the first time so it will take some time for her to (become accustomed to the job).

(a) let her hair down (b) let bygones be bygones (c) learn the ropes (d) lay it on thick

2. He is (very wealthy) and never has to worry about looking for a job.

(a) loaded (b) like a ton of bricks (c) losing his marbles (d) laid up

3. I will (check) whether or not you can borrow this book.

(a) lay down the law (b) lose sight of (c) look into (d) let on

4. The company suffered from the recession for many months and finally had to (get rid of) some workers.

(a) look on (b) lose sight of (c) leave out (d) lay off

5. He is rather irritable and (becomes angry) easily.

(a) loses his temper (b) lets his hair down (c) learns the ropes (d) lands on his feet

6. He has been studying very hard and (gradually) his English is improving.

(a) learning the ropes (b) losing his shirt (c) like a ton of bricks (d) little by little

7. I have (not had contact with) him for many years.

(a) lost sight of (b) lost track of (c) looked down on (d) looked after

8. Their children are (waiting excitedly) to go to Disneyland.

(a) looking into (b) looking at the world through rose-colored glasses (c) living it up (d) looking forward

9. His uncle is quite forgetful and sometimes I think that he has (become a little crazy).

(a) lost his marbles (b) let the cat out of the bag (c) let something ride (d) let bygones be bygones

10. We (forgot to bring) the bottle opener so now we don`t have anything to drink.

(a) let go of (b) laid up (c) left behind (d) looked into

11. She managed to (successfully begin a new life) after her divorce.

(a) land on her feet (b) lose track (c) look down her nose at something (d) let someone off the hook

12. She never really (revealed) where she got the money.

(a) lost track of (b) looked on (c) let on (d) let go of

13. He (lost all of his money) at the horse races.

(a) lost his marbles (b) lost his shirt (c) lived out of a suitcase (d) let something ride

14. They made a mistake (and revealed the plans) about the party.

(a) let the cat out of the bag (b) left someone holding the bag (c) laid down the law (d) lost their temper

15. She (became lost) on the way back from the department store.

(a) laid someone off (b) landed on her feet (c) let her hair down (d) lost her way

16. They (left me to take the blame) and went to the restaurant.

(a) laid down the law (b) left me holding the bag (c) let me know (d) let me off the hook

17. She (has a low opinion of) the other members of the club.

(a) lost her temper at (b) lost heart at (c) looks after (d) looks down her nose at

18. They (have a luxurious life). Where do they get their money?

(a) look down on everyone (b) look at the world through rose-colored glasses (c) live high off the hog (d) lay it on thick

19. His actions made me angry but I decided to (continue without changing the situation).

(a) lose my temper (b) let it ride (c) look over something (d) live it up

20. His decision to transfer me to Texas hit me (very hard).

(a) loaded (b) little by little (c) like a ton of bricks (d) left holding the bag

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