Common Idioms - W & X

Idioms - W-X

wade into

- attack, join in

The football player waded into the fight to protect his teammates.

wait on (someone) hand and foot

- serve in every possible way, do everything for someone

He always waits on his wife hand and foot.

wait table

- serve food

He spent the summer waiting tables at the resort.

wait up for

- not go to bed until someone arrives or something happens

The woman waited up for her daughter to come home.

walk all over someone

- take advantage of someone, win a game easily

They walked all over the other team at the football tournament.

walk away/off with

- take and go away with, take away, steal

Someone walked away with the computer from the library last night.

walking papers

- a statement that one is fired from one`s job, dismissal

He was given his walking papers from his company last week.

walk of life

- way of living, manner in which people live

People from every walk of life came to the concert in the park.

walk on air

- feel happy and excited

She has been walking on air all morning since she heard that she had passed her exams.

walk out

- go on strike

More than half of the workers at the factory decided to walk out on strike this morning.

walk out

- leave suddenly

Three people walked out of the meeting yesterday.

walk (all) over

- make someone do whatever one wishes, make selfish use of

He tried to walk all over me when I began the job but after I became used to the company he stopped.

walk the floor

- walk back and forth across the floor, pace

He spent the night in the hospital walking the floor while waiting for his wife to have a baby.

walk the plank

- be forced to resign from a job

The vice-president was forced to walk the plank when the new president joined the company.

walk the plank

- be forced by pirates to walk a long plank from the ship out over the water to your death

The pirates seized the small ship and forced the captain to walk the plank.

waltz off with

- to take, get or win easily

My favorite team waltzed off with the championship again last night.

warm one`s blood/heart

- make one feel warm or excited

The sight of the small boy looking after his dog warmed the heart of the people on the street.

warm up

- become friendly or interested

His wife finally warmed up to the idea of going to Italy for a holiday.

warm up

- get ready for a game or other event by exercising or practising

We spent two hours warming up for the game on Saturday.

wash one`s hands of

- abandon, refuse responsibility for

He washed his hands of the problem after they refused to deal with it.

washed up

- no longer successful or needed

The boxer was all washed up and had to retire last year.

waste one`s breath

- speak pointlessly without the desired results

He is very stubborn and you are wasting your breath to try and argue with him.

watch it

- be careful (usually used as a command)

"Watch it! That truck is going very fast and may hit you."

watch/mind one`s P`s and Q`s

- be well-behaved, be careful

The boy was told to watch his P`s and Q`s by his teacher after he caused too many problems at school.

water down

- make weak, dilute

The new policy was a watered down version of the earlier one.

water under the bridge

- something that happened in the past and can`t be changed

It was terrible that your house was robbed but it is water under the bridge now and you must move on.

way the wind blows

- direction or course something may go, what may happen

We will have to see which way the wind blows as far as our plans to go to London or not.

wear and tear

- damage as a result of ordinary use

They put a lot of wear and tear on their car during their long holiday.

wear down

- make something become less useful or smaller or weaker by wearing or aging

Little by little the water wore down the rocks at the edge of the river.

wear down

- exhaust or tire someone out

He was worn down after the meeting that took seven hours.

wear off/away

- remove or disappear little by little by use, time or weather

The name on the front of my passport has worn off from using it too much.

wear on

- anger or annoy, tire

His constant complaining is beginning to wear on my nerves.

wear one`s heart on one`s sleeve

- show one`s feelings openly

He was wearing his heart on his sleeve after the meeting with his boss.

wear out

- use or wear something until it becomes useless

My shoes wore out during my trip to Paris.

wear out one`s welcome

- visit somewhere too long or come back too often so that one is not welcome anymore

My friend has worn out his welcome at our house as he always comes to visit us without calling first.

wear the pants in a family

- be the boss in a family

She is very strong and seems to be the one who wears the pants in her family.

wear thin

- become thin from use or the passing of time

The silver dollar had begun to wear thin after it was in use for many years.

wear thin

- grow less or less interesting or believable

His excuses have begun to wear thin after he keeps using the same ones over and over.

weed out

- remove what is unwanted, get rid of

I spent the morning weeding out the clothes that I didn`t need anymore.

weigh on/upon

- be a weight or pressure on someone or something, worry or upset someone

The pressure of her exams has begun to weigh upon my sister.

weigh one`s words

- be careful of what one says

You should weigh your words carefully before you tell him your decision to quit.

well and good

- good, satisfactory

It is well and good that he will go and talk to his supervisor about the problem.


- rich

He seems rather well-heeled and is always wearing expensive clothes and driving a nice car.


- wealthy

Her parents are well-off and don`t need to worry about money during their retirement.


- having or making enough money to live comfortably

He comes from a rather well-to-do family.

wet behind the ears

- inexperienced, immature

He is a little wet behind the ears and doesn`t know much about the company yet.

wet blanket

- person who discourages others from having fun

He is a wet blanket so we never invite him to any parties.

wet one`s whistle

- have a drink, especially alcohol

They decided to stop at a bar on the way home from work to wet their whistle.

what about

- about or concerning something

I know that he wants to borrow my tent but what about my sleeping bag.

what have you

- whatever one likes or wants

"I`ll have a blueberry ice cream cone or what have you."

(have) what it takes

- ability for a job, courage

He really has what it takes to be a success at his job.

what`s the big idea

- what is the purpose, what do you have in mind

"What`s the big idea. Why are you using my bicycle?"

what`s up/cooking/doing

- what is happening, what is planned, what is wrong

"What`s up ", he said as he entered the room.

what`s what

- what each thing is in a group, one thing from another

It is hard to tell what`s what at an auction of old furniture.

what`s (up) with

- what is happening/wrong, how is everything

"What`s with the new supervisor? He seems very angry this morning."

what with

- because, as a result of

We wanted to go away for a holiday but what with the move to a new building and the expansion we are too busy to go anywhere.

wheel and deal

- take part in political or commercial scheming

There was a lot of wheeling and dealing going on before they built the new convention center.

when hell freezes over

- never

He said that he would come to an office party when hell freezes over.

when the chips are down

- at the most important or dangerous time, when the winner and loser of a bet or a game will be decided

When the chips are down he will always come and help his friends.

while away the time

- make time go by pleasantly

We spent the afternoon whiling away the time by the river.

(a) while back

- several weeks or months in the past

I saw him a while back but recently I have no idea where he is.

whip up

- make or do quickly or easily

It was very late when we got home last night so we whipped up something to eat very quickly.

whip up

- make active, stir to action

The union leader whipped up the crowd with his speech.

whistle a different tune

- change one`s attitude, contradict previous ideas

He is whistling a different tune now that he has been promoted and has responsibility for the office.

whistle in the dark

- try to stay brave and forget one`s fear

Although he felt very frightened he began to whistle in the dark which helped to calm him down.

white elephant

- a useless possession

They are having a white elephant sale at the school next week.

white lie

- a harmless lie (eg. told for the sake of politeness)

I told her a white lie when I said that I would be too busy to meet her.

white sale

- selling at reduced prices of towels, linens, etc.

We went to the white sale at the department store last Saturday.

whole show

- everything

The new boss always tries to run the whole show.

wide of the mark

- far from the target or the thing aimed at, incorrect

His ideas for the new company were wide of the mark from what everyone expected.

wildcat strike

- a strike not ordered by a labor union but spontaneously by a group of workers

There was a wildcat strike at the factory last night.

will not hear of

- will not allow or consider

My aunt said that she will not hear of us staying at a hotel when we come to see her.

wild goose chase

- absurd or hopeless search

He led them all on a wild goose chase when he told them about the sale at the computer store.

will power

- strength of mind

He has very strong will power and was able to quit smoking easily.

wind up

- end, finish, settle

Let`s wind things up now and then we can all go home.

wind up

- tighten the spring of a machine to make it work or run

Every night before he goes to bed my grandfather winds up his alarm clock.

wind up

- make very excited, nervous or upset

I was really wound up yesterday after work so I couldn`t get to sleep easily.

wing it

- act without preparation

He wasn`t prepared for the examination so he had to wing it.

wink at

- allow and pretend not to know about something (a law or rule being broken)

The librarian always winks at the rule about borrowing a maximum of three books.

winning streak

- a series of several wins one after the other

Our baseball team has been on a winning streak for several weeks now.

win out

- be victorious or successful after hard work or difficulty

We have had a lot of problems with our boss recently but finally we won out and he agreed to listen to our complaints.

wipe out

- remove, kill or destroy completely

The city spends a lot of money trying to wipe out rats near the river.


- a disaster, a calamity

My exams were a total wipe-out. I think that I failed all of them.


- sarcastic or nasty remark

She made a funny wisecrack during the speech which caused the audience to start laughing.

wise guy

- a person who acts as if he were smarter than other people

He always acts like a wise guy when he is in a big group.

wise up to

- finally understand what is really going on after a period of ignorance

He finally wised up to the fact that he was never going to get a promotion in his company.


- unable to decide, have no definite opinion

He is very wishy-washy and can never make up his mind what he wants to do.

with child

- pregnant, going to have a baby

I think that the new teacher at our school is with child.

with flying colors

- with great or total success

I was able to pass my final exams with flying colors.

within an inch of one`s life

- until one is almost dead

The elderly man was beaten to within an inch of his life.

within reason

- sensible, reasonable

I think that, within reason, you should be able to take as much time off as you want to go to school.

with open arms

- greet someone warmly or eagerly

My aunt and uncle were at the airport to greet us with open arms.

with the best of them

- as well as anyone

He can play soccer with the best of them when he makes the effort.

wit`s end

- not knowing what to do, at the end of one`s mental resources

I have been at my wit`s end all week trying to decide what to wear to the party.

wolf in sheep`s clothing

- a person who pretends to be good but really is bad

He is a wolf in sheep`s clothing and you should be very careful when you have to deal with him.

word for word

- in exactly the same words

I told her word for word exactly what had happened before the accident.

word of mouth

- passing information orally from one person to another

He heard about the new restaurant by word of mouth.

worked up

- feeling excited, angry, worried

He is all worked up about the fact that he wasn`t invited to the party.

work in

- rub in

We spent a long time trying to work the softening cream into the leather.

work in

- slip in, mix in, put in

I was able to work in a part in the play for my best friend.

work into

- force into little by little

He was able to work his foot into his boot but it was still very tight.

work off

- make something go away - especially by working

He was able to work off his hangover and is now feeling much better.

work on/upon

- have an effect on, try to influence or convince

I am working on my boss to let me have some time off this summer.

work one`s fingers to the bone

- work very hard

She has been working her fingers to the bone for years trying to raise her three children.

work out

- end successfully, be efficient

I hope that everything will work out for her when she moves to London next week.

work out

- solve, find an answer to

I was unable to work out the math problem on the final examination.

work out

- accomplish, arrange, plan

Recently we worked out a unique system for filling out our expenses at work.

work out

- exercise

He spends most weekends working out at the health club.

work over

- beat someone up very roughly in order to intimidate them or get money

The gang worked over the storeowner in order to get some money from him.

work up

- stir up, arouse, excite

He really likes to work up a sweat when he does his exercises.

world is one`s oyster

- everything is possible for one, one can get anything

The world is her oyster now that she has received her MBA from Harvard University.

worse for wear

- not as good as new, worn out

I borrowed my friend`s canoe for a month and it is now beginning to look the worse for wear.

worth a cent

- worth anything, of any value

His new car is broken down and not worth a cent.

worth one`s salt

- worth what one is paid

He is definitely worth his salt in our company and is one of our best employees.

would just as soon

- prefer to do one thing rather than another

She would just as soon stay at home as go to the movie.

wrap around one`s finger

- have complete control over someone and be able to make them do anything you want

She has her boss wrapped around her finger and can do anything that she wants.

wrapped up in

- thinking only of, interested only in

He is always wrapped up in playing with his computer.

wrap up

- put on warm clothes, dress warmly

She wrapped herself up in her warm clothes and went out.

write off

- remove (an amount) from a business record, cancel (a debt)

The bank was forced to write off a large amount of its debt.

write off

- accept (a loss or trouble) and not worry any more about it

He was forced to write off his bad experience at his old job.

write up

- write or describe in writing, give a full account of

After our trip to Vietnam I spent a couple of weeks trying to write it up for a magazine.

wrong side of the tracks

- the poor side of town

He married a girl who everyone said was from the wrong side of the tracks because he loved her.

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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