List of O Idioms:


This O idioms list will get you “OFF and running” to mastering the most common expressions. Did it “OCCUR to you” that you only have to understand idioms to reach a high level of English? It’s true! We do use idioms all the time in English but these are just expressions that can be said using regular language. So take a deep breath.... you only need to understand them. Of course, if you are able to use them it will just make  your English that much better!

Before we get started you hopefully remember what an idiom is, right?

An idiom is a group of words that has a meaning that is different from the individual words that make up the expression. If you looked up the words "off" and "running," you would be puzzled and might think "off what?" and "running where?"  But the idiomatic expression "off and running" actually means having a good start and making good progress.

Don't worry, the definitions and example sentences will help you understand these examples. You can also practice writing your own sentences and get feedback below in the comments.

O Idioms

OCCASION

rise to the occasion:  to do what is needed at a particular time.

  • She’s a good tennis player but she never rises to the occasion  at the grand slam tournaments.
  • I was very impressed how you rose to the occasion  today and chaired the meeting during the director’s absence.


OCCUR

occur to someone:  to come to someone’s mind, to think of something.

  • It didn’t occur to me  that when you said you’d be home “late” last night that you actually wouldn’t come home until 7 AM!
  • Did it ever occur to you  that I might want to choose the TV show sometimes?


ODDS

against the odds:  despite a lot of difficulty or challenges.

  • Against the odds, I beat the number one ranked player today.
  • I really admire how Lindsey Vonn came back against the odds  to win another skiing championship.


odds and ends:  a variety of things (often left-over things).

  • I made this quilt out of some odds and ends  from the linen closet.
  • I’ve got to finish a bunch of odds and ends  before I leave the office tonight.


at odds with something:  not in agreement.

  • Suddenly my best friends are at odds with each other  so now I have to see them separately.
  • I’ve been at odds with the board of directors  regarding salaries for months so I’ve decided I will resign if they don’t agree to the increases at the next meeting.


OF

of course:  certainly, naturally.

  • Of course  you can stay with us whenever you come to town.
  • Of course  my girlfriend would call as soon as the game started.


of late:  lately, recently.

  • I’ve been going to bed really early of late  and I feel so much better.
  • Of late, I haven’t traveled very much so I’ve been able to go to my son’s baseball games.


OFF

off and on (on and off):  working or existing sometimes but not at other times.

  • The electricity has been off and on  for the past five hours since the storm hit.
  • My boyfriend and I were dating off and on  for five years but this time it’s over and we’re never getting back together.
  • Doctor, the pain in my stomach has been on and off  for two months now but it’s becoming more frequent so I’m worried.


off and running:  started doing something and it’s going well.

  • Our fundraising campaign is off and running  and we’ll definitely surpass last year’s donations.


OFFENSE

no offense:  this is not meant to insult or offend anyone.

  • No offense  but I only date guys who share my religion.
  • No offense, however we’re looking for a candidate with better speaking skills.

OLD

the same old same old:  something that has stayed the same as before.

  • It’s the same old same old  boring office as when you left a year ago.
  • My life is the same old same old : study, practice, eat and sleep.

ON

on a diet:  eating particular types and/or amounts of food (especially to lose weight or for medical reasons).

  • I’m on a low sodium diet  since my doctor said my blood pressure is very high.
  • Sorry I can’t eat any of your birthday cake — I’m on a diet  again.


on and on (and on):  continuously without stopping.

  • These management meetings just go on and on and on  and I can never get any work done.
  • This rain has gone on and on  for days — I wonder when it will stop.


on a shoestring:  with very little money or a very small budget.

  • I got a second job because the stress of living on a shoestring  was killing me.
  • My dad thinks all artists live on a shoestring  so he was surprised when my first painting sold for $4,500.


on the wait/waiting list:  on a list of people waiting for something.

  • We were on the waiting list  for a two-bedroom apartment in our building for a year and a half and finally decided to move.
  • I got on the waitlist  at the University of Maryland but there’s a good chance I will get accepted in June.

ONCE

(all) at once:  1) right away, immediately; 2) at the same time.

  • Sheila, please come into my office at once!
  • All at once  the sofa caught on fire and we were barely able to leave the apartment in time.
  • Everything happened so fast and all at once  so I can’t really remember much about it.


once again:  another time.

  • Once again  we see each other at the grocery store — this is really unusual.
  • If you’re absent once again  you’ll need to bring a doctor’s note.


once and for all:  finally and completely.

  • After doing crash diets during my entire 20s, I lost the weight once and for all  when I started to eat sensibly and walk to work.
  • I’m happy to say that your grandfather and I got together today and settled our differences once and for all.


give someone/something the once over:  to make a decision or judgment after very quickly looking at someone/something.

  • When you’re finished with that memo I’ll give it the once over  before you send it.
  • You should always give your emails the once over  before sending them.
  • My dad always gives my outfits the once over  before I go to school.


ONE

one after the other:  one thing is followed by the next person or thing.

  • Unfortunately, the complaints are coming in one after another  so we need to fix this problem quickly.
  • She dates new guys one after the other  because she only likes the rush of falling in love.
  • We've had one problem after the other  with this new car.


one and only:  only

  • This is my one and only  photo of your great-grandmother so be careful with it. 
  • The one and only  race I won happened on the day my dad wasn’t there to see it.


one and the same:  the same thing.

  • FaceTime and Skype are practically one and the same  except you don’t need an Apple device to use Skype.
  • These two brands are one and the same  but this one is a lot less expensive.


one by one:  one thing or person immediately after another.

  • Everyone please line up at the entrance one by one  and then I’ll give you the tickets.
  • The models came out one by one  wearing incredibly skimpy underwear.

one up (on something/someone): to have an advantage over someone/something.

  • This information is going to give me a one up  over my competitors.
  • Being a lot taller gave me a one up on most of the other guys  trying out for the basketball team.


the one and only:  the only person or type of thing.

  • My grandmother was the one and only  woman in her college who graduated and became a doctor.
  • This is the one and only  photograph of my mother as brunette.


ONLY

only just:  recently.

  • It’s over already? We only just  got to the party.
  • I only just  moved here so if you have recommendations of where to shop I’d appreciate it.


only too:  very, very much.

  • The auto mechanic was only too  happy to recommend repairs I didn’t need.
  • I’d be only too  pleased to join you for Thanksgiving dinner.


OPEN

open to something:  willing to consider something.

  • I’m open to suggestions  about how we divide up the work for this project.
  • If you’re open to seeing houses  in other neighborhoods there are more properties in your price range.

open up:  to speak honestly and freely about something personal.

  • My sister opened up  and told me she’s very unhappy in her marriage.
  • Everyone cried when the speaker opened up  and told us how he lost his daughter to cancer.

(out) in the open:  to become known to everyone, to be visible for all to see.

  • I put some brochures out in the open  so people can take them if they’re interested.
  • Now that your biggest fears are out in the open, we can try to find a solution to the problem.


wide open:  not decided or determined yet.

  • We haven’t even selected a venue yet so the planning is wide open.
  • There are five contestants left in the final round so the competition is still wide open.


OPTIONS

keep one’s options open:  to wait further before making a choice.

  • I made a reservation at the Hilton Hotel but we’re keeping our options open  and looking for a better rate somewhere else.
  • I wish I’d kept my options open  and didn’t take the first job offer I got.


ORDER

in short order:  very fast.

  • We’ll have your meal ready in short order.
  • I managed to get through security in short order  and then relaxed in the executive lounge for two hours.


out of order:  not working, broken.

  • This coffee machine is out of order  so don’t put any coins in it.
  • I cannot believe the copy machine is out of order  again.


OUT

out from under (something):  not being controlled by someone else any longer.

  • The people are finally out from under  the dictator’s rule but now the country is in chaos.
  • I’ve got to get out from under  this credit card debt because I can hardly sleep at night.

out loud:  to voice something so others can hear it.

  • When I told my mother I needed a $300 per she laughed out loud  and told me to get a job.
  • If you want to improve your English speaking, read to yourself out loud  for 10 minutes a day.

out of it:  1) confused/disoriented, not understanding or aware of what’s happening; 2) not a part of something.

  • He always looks out of it  because he smokes a lot of marijuana.
  • I was so out of it  this morning I missed my stop and rode the bus all the way to the end of the route.
  • You stay out of it — no one wants to hear your opinion.

on the outs:  not friendly, no longer communicating.

  • The director and my boss are on the outs  so it’s really uncomfortable for me.
  • Are you on the outs  with your mom again or can I ask her to babysit this weekend?

OUTSIDE

at the outside:  no more than.

  • We’ll need a week more to finish painting at the outside.
  • Don’t worry I’ll be there in an hour at the outside.


OVER

over (and done) with:  completed, finished.

  • Before my grandmother died she weighed next to nothing  and they had to feed her with a tube.
  • You won’t believe this but this purse cost me next to nothing — it was on sale for 60% off.


over (and done) with:  completed, finished.

  • I can’t wait until high school is over and done with  and I can move away to college.
  • I got my paper over with  so I could enjoy the spring break holiday.


over and over:  many times.

  • Shut up! You keep telling the same stories over and over  and no one cares.
  • I’ve replayed our conversation over and over  in my mind and I still don’t know what I said to offend her.


overdo it:  to do something too much.

  • Don’t overdo it  with the champagne or you’ll have a terrible headache in the morning.
  • I overdid it  at the gym yesterday and I now my muscles are so sore I can barely move.


into overdrive:  in a situation where things are working extra hard.

  • As we get close to the conference everyone has moved into overdrive.
  • I don’t even remember the last week of finals — I went into overdrive  and wrote two papers and took four exams.


over the moon:  to be extremely happy or pleased.

  • To be honest, we were over the moon  when our daughter's boyfriend cheated on her and then broke up with her—we were sad for her but he was very rude and aggressive.
  • I’m over the moon  that I got into Stanford University's Law School!


OWE

owe it to someone to do something:  you have an obligation to do something for someone.

  • You owe it to yourself  to take better care of your health.
  • My son owes it to me  to tell the truth about what he spent his college tuition on.


OWN

on one’s own:  1) not having support from others; 2) alone.

  • When I turned 21 my parents told me I was on my own  but I’m glad because now I’m self-sufficient.
  • You can stay out late every night if you want when you’re on your own.
  • I don’t like driving on my own  at night so now I’m in a carpool.


own up (to something/someone):  admit you did something wrong.

  • If you had just owned up to taking the car  it wouldn’t have been a huge problem but you lied and blamed your sister.
  • Ugh — I’ve got to own up to my boss  that I didn’t check all the facts in the report.




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Your turn: Practice these O idioms

Although this list has expressions beginning with the letter "O"—I've also created pages of expressions with other letters of the alphabet: click here to go to the main idioms page.)

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