Common Idioms - U & V

Idioms - U-V

ugly duckling

- an ugly or plain child who grows up to be pretty and attractive

She was an ugly duckling when she was a child but now she is very beautiful.

under a cloud

- under suspicion, not trusted

The politician has been under a cloud over the possibility of taking bribes.

under a cloud

- depressed, sad

She has been under a cloud of depression since her cat died.

under cover

- hidden, concealed

The police officer went under cover to look for the drug dealers.

under fire

- being shot at or attacked, under (verbal) attack

The owner of the company is under fire for not paying his employees a fair salary.

under one`s belt

- in one`s experience, memory or possession

When he has more experience as a cook under his belt he will begin to look for a job.

under one`s belt

- in one`s stomach

After he has a big breakfast under his belt he is ready for work.

under one`s breath

- in a whisper, with a low voice

He was talking under his breath in the movie theater and someone complained.

under one`s nose

- in sight of, in an easily seen or noticeable place

He found his driver`s license right under his nose where he had left it.

under one`s own steam

- by one`s own efforts, without help

He was able to go home under his own steam even though he was feeling very sick.

under one`s thumb

- obedient to someone, controlled by someone

He is only an assistant salesman but he has his boss under his thumb.

under one`s wing

- under the care or protection of

He took the new employee under his wing to help him in the new job.

under the counter

- secretly bought or sold

The drugs are being sold under the counter although the government has not given its approval.

under the hammer

- up for sale at an auction

The painting went under the hammer and sold for a very high price.

under the table

- in secret and usually illegal

He paid some money under the table in order to get his product exported into the country.

under the weather

- feel ill (but not seriously ill)

He is feeling under the weather so he is going to bed early tonight.

under wraps

- not allowed to be seen until the right time, in secrecy

The new car was still under wraps when the auto show started.

unearthly hour

- absurdly early or inconvenient

We got up at an unearthly hour this morning so we could get ready to go camping.

until hell freezes over

- forever, for an eternity

He said that he would not talk to his girlfriend again until hell freezes over.

up against

- close to

The ladder was standing up against the tree in the yard.

up against

- confronted with

He was up against a lot of problems when he went to university but recently he is doing very well.

up and about

- recovered from an illness

He has been up and about for a couple of days since he left the hospital.

up for grabs

- available for anyone to try to get, ready to be competed for

The new championship of the city is up for grabs.

up front

- honestly, correctly

He was very up front when giving me the information about the new office.

up in arms

- equipped with guns or weapons and ready to fight, very angry and ready to fight

The villagers were up in arms over the proposal to take some of their land away from them.

up in the air

- not settled, undecided

Whether or not I will be able to go to London is still up in the air.

up one`s alley

- something one is good at or enjoys

Computer programming is right up his alley and he is very good at it.

up one`s sleeve

- kept secretly ready for the right time or for a time when needed

He probably has something up his sleeve and will be able to get a job when he needs one.

upper crust

- richest, most famous or important people in a certain place, the highest class

The private club was full of what looked like the upper crust of the city.

upper hand

- controlling power, advantage

The union members have the upper hand in the negotiations with the company.

ups and downs

- alternate good and bad fortune

He is having a few ups and downs but generally he is doing well.

upset the applecart

- ruin or spoil a plan or idea

Try not to upset the applecart as we have spent a lot of time working on this project.

up the creek

- in trouble

She is up the creek now that she has lost her passport.

up the river/creek with no paddle

- in trouble and unable to do anything about it

I think that we are up the river with no paddle now that our car has run out of gasoline.


- worried, irritated, excessively eager or anxious

My sister has been uptight all week because of her exams.

up to

- as far as, as deep or as high as, close to, approaching

The water in the swimming pool came up to my waist.

up to

- doing or planning secretly, ready for mischief

I don`t know what he was up to last night but it was probably something bad.

up to

- depending on

It is up to his wife whether or not he goes to the movie.

up to it/the job

- capable of, fit for, equal to

If he is up to it we should let him drive the truck to the new office.

up to/till/until

- until

Up until last week he had never been inside of a bowling alley.

up to here with

- sick of someone`s continual bad or irritating behavior

I have had it up to here with his always coming late to work.

up to one`s ears in work

- have a lot of work to do

I`d like to go with you but I`m up to my ears in work at the moment.

up to par/scratch/snuff/the mark

- meeting normal standards, equal to the usual level or quality

His work was not up to par and he was asked to leave and look for another job.

up to someone to do something

- be responsible to take care of something

It is up to her to decide when the meeting will start.

(in) up to the chin

- very busy with, deeply involved in something, guilty of

He has been in up to the chin in the project to build a new convention center.

used to

- accustomed to

He is not used to living in such a big city.

use one`s head/bean/noodle/noggin

- think carefully about

You should use your head a little more and try not to make the same mistake again.

use up

- use until nothing is left, spend or consume completely

They used up all of the paper in the copy machine this morning.

very well

- agreed, all right

Very well, if you want to go I will go with you.

vicious circle

- unbroken sequence of cause and effect with bad results

He had fallen into a vicious circle of drinking too much and then losing his job and then drinking even more.

vote down

- defeat in a vote

The proposal to extend the opening hours of bars was voted down in the election.

Idiom Quizzes - UWY

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

1. It is time to (finish) the job so we can return home.

(a) water down (b) work out (c) wind up (d) wait up for

2. I have (had enough of) his bad manners so I don`t want to meet him anymore.

(a) had it under the table with (b) had it up the river with no paddle with (c)had it up to par with (d) had it up to here with

3. You should (think carefully) before talking to him about the problem or you will make it worse.

(a) weigh your words (b) waste your breath (c) wear the pants in your family (d) wet your whistle

4. They went on a (search with no results) after they were told about the cheap apartment to rent.

(a) wet blanket (b) wild goose chase (c) white elephant (d) yellow streak

5. He is rather (wealthy) and never has to work.

(a) within reason (b) watered down (c) well-off (d) washed up

6. Repairing motors is (suitable for him) so he enjoys his work a lot.

(a) under the table (b) up his alley (c) up to his ears in work (d) up the river with no paddle

7. We didn`t keep him as a cook because his work was not (up to an acceptable standard).

(a) up his alley (b) up to our ears in work (c) up to par (d) under the table

8. He paid the border guard a large sum of money (illegally) to get his video camera into the country.

(a) under the weather (b) under the table (c) up and about (d) up his alley

9. The football player was (finished) several years ago and should have quit then.

(a) yellow-bellied (b) washed up (c) wound up (d) watered down

10. His son couldn`t (solve) the mathematics problem.

(a) water down (b) work out (c) wind up (d) wear out

11. If you make a request that is (sensible) he will probably agree with it.

(a) within reason (b) washed up (c) weighing your words (d) well-heeled

12. He is feeling a little (sick) so he won`t be joining us for dinner tonight.

(a) under the table (b) up and about (c) up his alley (d) under the weather

13. He should (think a little more often) and then he wouldn`t make so many mistakes.

(a) use his head (b) be up to his ears in work (c) be under the table (d) be up the river with no paddle

14. You will only (waste your time) if you try and talk to him because he never listens.

(a) wash your hands of him (b) waste your breath (c) walk all over him (d) wear the pants in his family

15. They were (in a lot of trouble) when the motor in their boat stopped working.

(a) under the weather (b) up and about (c) up the river with no paddle (d) using their head

16. It is (his decision) to decide if he wants to go to Europe or not.

(a) up to him (b) up to par (c) under the weather (d) upsetting the applecart

17. I heard about the concert (from friends) and not in the newspaper.

(a)on a wild goose chase (b) by word of mouth (c) by will power (d) when the chips were down

18. I didn`t want (to cause any problems) so I didn`t say anything during the meeting.

(a) to upset the applecart (b) an unearthly hour (c) to use my head (d) any ups and downs

19. He has been (working very hard) since his father gave him the restaurant to manage.

(a) wetting his whistle (b) whistling a different tune (c) within reason (d) working his fingers to the bone

20. I didn`t go to the movie last night because I was (very busy) writing an essay for university.

(a) up to my ears (b) up to here with (c) under the table (d) up my alley

21. He decided to (not go to bed) until his wife came home.

(a) be wishy-washy (b) work his fingers to the bone (c) wait up (d) wing it

22. She (takes advantage of) her mother and never does any work around the house.

(a) wear the pants in the family of (b) whistles a different tune with (c) walks all over (d) would just as soon be

23. He has begun to (change his attitude) with regard to the new company policy.

(a) whistle a different tune (b) watch his P`s and Q`s (c) weigh his words (d) use word of mouth

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