List of L Idioms:

This L idioms list is complete with definitions and several examples for each expression.  Each idiom on this list has a main word that begins with the letter "L." Don't worry, I've also provided the most frequently used idioms for words beginning with other letters of the alphabet: click here to go to the main idioms page

Before we get started, remember that an idiom is a group of words whose meaning is different from the individual words if you looked them up separately in the dictionary. Now, let's take a look at the most popular L idioms.

L Idioms

LABOR

a labor of love:  work that you do because you really enjoy it.

  • Most people hate it but organizing my closet is a labor of love for me.
  • I actually lost money with my pottery business but it was a labor of love  and now I still do it as a hobby.


LAG

lag behind (someone/something):  to be behind the level or progress of someone/something else.

  • During the entire race Stacy lagged behind the leaders  but she drew even at the last 500 meters and passed everyone at the finish line to win the race.
  • Test scores for the poorest children continue to lag far behind  those of the middle class.


land on one’s feet:  to be in a good or better situation after going through a difficult experience.

  • Since I lived in a very small town my whole life, I was surprised how quickly I landed on my feet  after moving to London.
  • She not only survived breast cancer but she ran a marathon after she landed on her feet.


LANGUAGE

speak the same language:  to share the same beliefs, ideas and opinions.

  • I hate going to family reunions because no one speaks the same language  and everyone constantly argues.
  • Despite our different backgrounds most people actually speak the same language  about many things in life.


LAP

fall into one’s lap:  to obtain or achieve something without working for it.

  • I spent six months looking everywhere for a job and couldn’t find anything and then the week after I stopped looking a great job just fell into my lap.
  • I’m really worried about my daughter, right now everything seems to fall into her lap  but one day she’s going to have to learn to work for the things she wants.


LARGE

by and large:  mostly, generally.

  • By and large, most of the kids at my school come from extremely conservative families but there are a few very liberal-minded kids like me.
  • The weather is by and large  pleasant for most of the year with one or two cooler months in the winter.


LASH

lash out (at someone/something):  to angrily criticize or yell at someone/something.

  • My coach lashed out at me  today for being five minutes late to practice and I was shocked at how angry he was.
  • Why are you lashing out at me  like this? I had no idea you were coming home early today.


LAST

at (long) last:  after a long delay.

  • At last  spring is here—I thought winter was never going to end.
  • At long last  I received my college diploma — I wasn’t sure I could do it.


hear the last of someone/something:  to not have to deal with or interact with someone/something again.

  • I decided to give the customer a full refund so I hope we’ve heard the last of her.
  • After Charlie moved to Europe, that’s the last we heard of him.


last but not least:  something that’s equally as important as other things even though it’s the last thing mentioned.

  • And last but not least, I want to thank my assistant for helping to organize this conference.
  • During my vacation I went to London, Paris and last but not least,  the charming city of Prague.


LATCH

latch on to someone/something: to closely follow or be connected to someone or something.

  • Whenever we go to the grocery store, my daughter latches onto me  because she got lost once before and is really scared of getting separated again.
  • Whenever I date someone my roommate latches onto any minor issue or bat habit the person has. It's so annoying; I guess she's worried I'll get a boyfriend before her.


LATE

better late than never:  it’s good that something happened now even though it would have been better if it happened earlier.

  • The dress arrived after the dance but better late than never —I’ll wear it to the next event.
  • I handed in my term paper a day late, but it was better late than never  because the teacher only marked it down one grade.


late in the day:  something that’s delayed a long time or almost too long.

  • Don’t you think it’s a little late in the day  to tell your ex-girlfriend you’re sorry?
  • Your mother and I have already decided to take your phone away — it’s late in the day  for your excuses.


LATEST

at the latest:  not later than a specified time.

  • I will send the report to you at 5 PM today at the latest.
  • It's 2:00 am and I'm worried I haven’t heard from my daughter yet because she said she would arrive here by 11:00 pm at the very latest.


LAUGH

have the last laugh:  to be successful at something others thought you wouldn’t be able to do.

  • No one believed I could become famous when I was in high school but I had the last laugh.
  • My parents always say I’ll never be a doctor but I’m going to have the last laugh.


laugh at someone:  to tease or ridicule someone.

  • All of the kids laugh at my friend  because she’s fat so I’m very protective of her.
  • I can’t believe people at my office laugh at our receptionist  because of her hairstyle — I feel like I’m still in high school.


laugh off something (laugh something off)to act or pretend as if something isn’t important or doesn’t bother you.

  • When the kids make fun of you, I suggest you just laugh it off  and they’ll get bored of teasing you and bother someone else.
  • I told my uncle that I hated it when he tells embarrassing stories about me but he just laughed it off.


laugh all the way to the bank:  to be happy about earning a profit doing something.

  • Most kids don’t want to babysit but I’m laughing all the way to the bank.
  • Of course your credit card company is delighted when you don’t pay your bill in full — in fact, they’re laughing all the way to the bank.


LAUNCH

launch into someone:  to severely criticize someone.

  • My parents launched into me  after I came home an hour late Saturday night.
  • I didn’t expect my mother-in-law to launch into me  the first time we met but she did and fortunately my husband defended me.


launch into something:  to start doing something with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.

  • We bought the kids some puzzles and they launched into them  right after they open the boxes.
  • It’s a new semester and I’ve decided to launch into my books  and not get behind this time.


LAW

above the law:   not having to obey laws or rules.

  • Many police officers think they are above the law  even when they're off-duty.
  • A lot of celebrities and movie stars think they are above the law  but sooner or later they get into deep trouble.


lay down the law:  to instruct people about what they have to do in an authoritative way.

  • My parents finally laid down the law  and now none of us can use the Internet or telephones after 7 PM in the evening.
  • When my husband tried to lay down the law, I told him we could either be partners or I’d leave him.


take the law into one’s own hands:  to punish someone based on one’s own idea of what’s right (often doing something illegal to punish someone).

  • In this country we’re lucky that very few people try to take the law into their own hands.
  • When the principal of my school didn’t do anything about the kids bullying me, my dad took the law into his own hands  and had my older brother threaten them.


LAY

lay into someone:  to yell at someone or attack them physically.

  • Last night I laid into my roommate  for eating all my cookies.
  • I hate it when my boyfriend gets drunk because he looks for any opportunity to lay into someone.


lay off (something):  to stop doing or using something.

  • If you’re on a diet, I suggest you lay off  the potato chips.
  • I’m going to lay off  going to the gym until my knee feels better.


lay somebody off (lay off someone): to end a worker’s job (usually because of economic difficulties).

  • I heard General Electric is going to lay off 1,000 workers  this week.
  • My dad had worked for his company for almost 20 years when they laid him off.


layover:  to make a stop somewhere during travel.

  • I’m just about to board a plane for the Philippines but I have a six-hour layover  in Singapore and I’ll check email when I’m there.
  • I couldn’t find any direct flights to San Francisco. Actually, I have to layover  in both Chicago and Denver!


LEAD

lead someone astray:  to negatively influence someone or cause him to make a mistake.

  • My parents don’t want me to go away to college because they’re terrified someone will lead me astray.
  • I thought the person at the train station was helping me but he was trying to lead me astray.


lead off (something)/lead something off:  to start something.

  • We’re going to lead the meeting off  with a prayer and the first panel discussion will follow afterwards.
  • The first swimmer of our relay team led off the race  with a record time of 59 seconds and no one could catch us after that.


lead someone on:  to deceive someone and be dishonest (often to get something from them).

  • My girlfriend was leading me on  when she accepted my marriage proposal—in fact, she was only trying to make her old boyfriend jealous.
  • You need to tell the intern that he won’t get a job at the end of his internship — it’s not fair to lead him on like this.

LEAF

leaf through something:  to turn the pages of a book, magazine or other written material briefly looking at the pages.

  • When I was waiting for the doctor, I leafed through several magazines  and found an interesting article about traveling by train through Switzerland.
  • I only had time to leaf through the report  but I’ll take a careful look at it this evening when I’m at home.

take a leaf out of someone’s book:  to copy what someone else has done.

  • I should take a leaf out of your book  and lose 25 pounds.
  • Take a leaf out of my book  and get up an hour early to write and you’ll finish writing a book in a year.


turn over a new leaf:  to behave in a different way.

  • Every year on January 1st people try to turn over a new leaf  and then stop trying after a week.
  • After I had a heart attack I had to turn over a new leaf  and begin to eat better and exercise regularly.


LEAGUE

in the same league (with/as someone or something):  having the same abilities, qualities or achievements as someone or something else.

  • My girlfriend isn't in the same league  as a supermodel but she's pretty close.
  • After I get my bonus, I’ll be earning in the same league  as my parents.


out of one’s league:  trying to do something that one isn’t prepared or qualified for or that isn’t right for the person.

  • I tried to train for a marathon but it was out of my league — I’ve decided to start with the 10K race instead.
  • In the advanced English class I felt completely out of my league  but the upper intermediate class has been perfect.


LEAN

lean on someone/something: 1) to depend on someone/something; 2) to try to pressure or force someone to do something.

  • Good friends are people you can lean on  when you’re sad and lonely.
  • I’m trying to be supportive but my team members are leaning on me  too much and they need to be able to do some things by themselves.
  • The director had to lean on the managers  to get production back up to the right pace.


lean over backwards:  to try very hard to do something.

  • I leaned over backwards  this semester to get good grades but I didn’t improve as much as I wanted.
  • To me, it’s worth the expense to stay at five-star hotels because they lean over backwards  to make everything perfect and comfortable.


LEAPS

grow by leaps and bounds: to grow a lot very quickly.

  • This summer it’s rained so much that our grass is growing by leaps and bounds.
  • Wow, your hair has grown by leaps and bounds  since I last saw you.


LEASE

a new lease on life:  a new chance to be happy or successful after going through difficulties or hardships.

  • Since he recovered from surgery he’s had a new lease on life  and seems to be doing very well.
  • Quitting the stressful job has given me a new lease on life  and I’m spending more time with my family.


LEASH

keep someone on a tight leash (keep someone on a short leash):  to closely control someone’s actions and allow them very little freedom to do the things they want.

  • It’s amazing she stays with that man when he always keeps her on a tight leash.
  • Since I made a huge mistake in our quarterly report, my boss has been keeping me on a short leash.
  • I have to keep my dog and my two-year old on tight leashes  or they'll get a mile away in two minutes.


LEAST

at (the very) least:  1) at a minimum, no less than; 2) any way.

  • At least  50 people will be at the conference but let’s make a reservation for 60 to be safe.
  • At the very least  I expect you to start arriving on time every day this month or we’re going to terminate your employment.
  • I may not like it but at least  I have a job.


not in the least:  not in any way.

  • Since we moved, our children have not been in the least happy  because they miss their friends.
  • Unfortunately, the people here are not in the least  bit friendly or helpful.


the least you can do (the least you could do):  something you should do.

  • If you don't like dinner your mother cooks, the least you can do  is recognize the effort she made to prepare the food and thank her for that.
  • When someone gives you a compliment the least you can do  is smile and say thank you..


LEAVE

leave someone alone:  to not bother or annoy someone.

  • Your daddy is in the study right now so please leave him alone  and let him work.
  • Can you please leave me alone  so I can get some sleep?


leave something alone:  to not touch something, to not interact or get involved with something.

  • Please leave the cake alone — after it cools I’m going to decorate it with icing.
  • If you want your investments to grow, just leave them alone  and they will earn you a good profit in the long term.


leave someone hanging:  to keep someone waiting for information, a response or decision.

  • I really wanted that job but they left me hanging  for two months after the interview so eventually I accepted another offer.
  • It’s really unprofessional for us to keep our customers hanging  this long for a decision.


leave someone high and dry:  to be in a difficult situation without any help or support.

  • When I missed the last bus home I was left high and dry  and had to walk home in the rain.
  • After we finally left our daughter high and dry,  she got tired of living on the streets and agreed to go to rehab. 


leave it at that:  to say or do nothing more about a situation.

  • He broke off our engagement two days before the wedding, let’s leave it at that.
  • I told him I was quitting and he left it at that.


leave something open:  to keep something possible or available.

  • Can you please leave the 15th-16th of December open  for a possible management meeting?
  • We want to leave the itinerary open  for now while we think of the exact places we want to visit.


leave out someone/something (leave something/someone out):  to not include someone or something.

  • Do you realize you left your brother out  of the invitation list for Thanksgiving dinner?
  • I was left out  the committee again this year even though I said I wanted to volunteer.
  • Please leave these figures out  of the report—they’re not very important.


leave something to be desired:  to not be as good as you want it to be.

  • It’s a beautiful apartment but the neighborhood leaves a lot to be desired.
  • He's a great student academically but his attitude about the other kids leaves a lot to be desired  and that's why he wasn't elected president of his class.


take leave:  to have approved time off from work.

  • I’m trying to finish all of my work because I’m going to take leave  next week.
  • I know it’s late to ask but could I possibly take leave  next month for two weeks?


LION

the lion's share:  the largest part (or share) of something.

  • I have to do the lion's share  of my paper this weekend because I've also got a big exam next week to study for.
  • I gave my daughter her monthly allowance and I'm sure she'll spend the lion's share  on new clothes.


LOG

sleep like a log:  to sleep very soundly (deeply) — so well that noises don't even wake you up.

  • I sleep like a log  everywhere: at the hospital, on the bus, even on the sofa while the tv's on and my kids are playing.
  • Although our hotel room was facing the street in New York I slept like a log.  Unfortunately, the traffic and noise from people yelling on the street kept my wife up all night.
  • I slept like a log  and didn't hear my alarm go off so I was 30 minutes late for work today. 


LUCK

get lucky:  1) to come into good fortune or luck; 2) to meet someone to have a casual sexual or romantic encounter with.

  • If I get lucky  the washing machines downstairs will be empty and I'll be able to finish my laundry quickly.
  • My roommate buys drinks for girls at clubs every weekend but never gets lucky.
  • Watch out for that girl — She's not interested in dating you, she just wants to get lucky tonight.


third time lucky:  the third time you try to do something you succeed.

  • I’m hopeful our team will be third time lucky  because they've been practicing a lot and also learned a lot from the previous two losses against this team.
  • I never gave up applying for jobs and before the interview I kept thinking this time I'll be third time lucky  and I was!




Have you signed-up for my free newsletter? I include an audio magazine article every month that's choc full of new vocabulary and idioms.

You can also find many idiom definitions with the different online learner's dictionaries.


Your turn: Practice these L idioms

Practicing using some of these idioms by writing your own sentences is a good way to make sure you understand the meaning. Idioms can be difficult so it's best to focus on making sure you understand them really well before using them yourself. This is a great place to practice and get feedback.

Simply choose one or several L idioms from the list and create your own sentences in the comments box below. I will give you feedback and correct any mistakes you may make.


Return from L idioms section to main idioms page.

Go to homepage


New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.