Popular English Idioms:

This list of popular English Idioms is "jam packed" with definitions and examples for idioms whose main word begins with the letter "J." When you're ready, just "jump in" and get started. Also, if you want to see idioms for other letters of the alphabet, click here to go to the main idioms page

A quick reminder: an idiom is a group of words whose meaning is different from the individual words if you looked them up separately in the dictionary.

Popular English Idioms Beginning with "J"


a jack of all trades:  someone who can do many different types of things.

  • My mom’s a jack of all trades — she learned how to do the repairs around the house; does all the housework and cooking; and can even fix our computers.

jack up something (jack something up):  to instantly increase something very much.

  • Credit card companies wait until their customers have high balances on their accounts and then they jack up their interest rates.
  • After the war started, gas stations jacked their prices up.
    My neighbors just jacked the music up  and this time I'm going to call the police.


hit the jackpot:  to achieve great success (like winning the jackpot — large amount of money in gambling games).

  • Lady Gaga hit the jackpot  with her first two CDs.
  • We’re going to hit the jackpot  with the new software we’ve developed.


jam on the brakes:  to quickly and strongly use the brakes to stop a vehicle or car.

  • I had to jam on the brakes to avoid hitting a dog this morning and I was shaking for the rest of the ride to work.

jam packed:  very crowded or full.

  • The concert was jam packed  with so many people it was hard to see anything.
  • This green juice is jam packed  with lots of vitamins and nutrients.

jam on it:  hurry or move.

  • We'd better jam on it  or will miss our appointment.


one’s jaw drops (open):  to show great surprise.

  • When our son saw that we bought him a new car for his birthday, his jaw dropped.
  • When they announced I was the one who got the promotion, everyone’s jaw dropped, including mine.
  • My dad’s jaw is going to drop open  when he sees my report card.


jazz up something (jazz something up):  to make something more interesting, exciting.

  • I love this café because they always jazz up their drinks  with whipped cream and flavored syrups.
  • We’re going to jazz this conference room up  with streamers and balloons for the holiday party.

and all that jazz:  and all those other similar things.

  • On the first day of class they’ll give you the syllabus, booklist, tell you about tests and grading, and all that jazz.

be jazzed about something:  to be excited about something.

  • I’m so jazzed about my new bike  I’m going to ride it to work every day.
  • Are you jazzed about spring break  this year?


in jeopardy:  in danger.

  • You’re putting your scholarship in jeopardy  by partying and not studying.


jerk someone around:  to lie and try to deceive someone about something.

  • I thought my boyfriend was serious about our relationship but he was just jerking me around — he never planned to marry me.
  • The sales man was jerking us around  when he said he’d give us a discount.


in jest:  joking.

  • When I said I quit my job it was only in jest.


do the job:  to get the same result as another method.

  • If you don’t have lemon juice, lime juice will do the job.

on the job:  while working.

  • We have a strict rule that there’s no checking Facebook on the job.
  • I can’t believe you’re working while on the job! What if someone sees you?


jockey for position:  to try to move around to get the best position or advantage.

  • After my boss said she was leaving the company, everyone started jockeying for position  to run the department.
  • Before the bride threw the bouquet, I jockeyed for position  and caught it.


jog one’s memory:  to try to cause someone to remember something.

  • Does this empty pack of cigarettes jog your memory  about your promise to quit smoking?
  • I’m trying to jog my memory  about where I put my keys.


join forces (with someone):  to unite with someone or work together.

  • We should join forces and go running every day after school to lose weight.

join hands (with someone):  to clasp hands, hold hands with others.

  • I love it at church when we join hands  and wish each other peace.
  • When the minister asked the bride and groom to join hands  I already started to cry.
  • At the end of the meeting we all joined hands with each other  and it was a very moving experience.

join in:  to participate in an activity.

  • Could I join in  on your support group this evening?
  • Why don’t you join in the discussion  were having?

join the fray:  participate in a fight or argument that had already started.

  • My son always looks for any opportunity to join the fray  whenever a fight breaks out at school.

joined at the hip:  together with someone all the time, closely connected.

  • My son and our little puppy have been joined at the hip  ever since we brought him home from the shelter.
  • Unfortunately my boss and I are always joined at the hip  during out-of-town conferences so I won’t be able to see you.


no joke:  it’s a serious matter.

  • I’m sorry but this is no joke — I suggest you stop laughing and listen to me carefully or I’ll call your parents.

play a joke on someone:  to do something to make someone feel embarrassed or dumb.

  • My friends played a joke on me  pretending that they forgot my birthday and I was almost in tears.

take a joke:  to keep good humor when someone makes fun of you.

  • There are five boys in my family and I’m the only girl. Luckily, I can take a joke  because they’re always tormenting me.


jot something down (jot down something):  write something quickly.

  • Grab a pencil and jot down  this number for me.
  • Sure you can see my notes but I only jotted down  a few ideas since I prefer to just listen carefully during lectures.


jump for joy:  to be very excited and happy about something.

  • When the number of my YouTube subscribers grew to 1,000 people I was jumping for joy.


you can’t judge a book by its cover:  decide about something based on its outward appearance only.

  • In Los Angeles, you can’t judge a book by its cover  because some of the richest people shop in jeans and a T-shirt.

judge someone/something on its own merits:  evaluate something by its own achievements and accomplishments.

  • I really hope this company will judge each applicant by his or her own merits  but I think it’s more about who you know.


against one’s better judgment:  making a decision that isn’t the best one for you.

  • A year ago I decided to lend my friend $2,000 against my better judgment  and now she hasn’t paid me back a penny and avoids me.

pass judgment on someone/something:  to make a strong opinion about something.

  • Before you pass judgment on my boyfriend, I want to tell you he’s a straight-A student and his father’s a doctor.

sit in judgment of someone/something:  to decide if someone is guilty/innocent, or good/bad.

  • You have no right to sit in judgment of who I date — you’re supposed to be my friend and support me.


get a jump on someone/something:  to act before someone/something to get an early advantage.

  • When I was 15 minutes late coming home my dad jumped all over me  and searched my purse.
  • Don’t jump all over me  just because I disagree with you.

jump all over someone:  to severely criticize, blame or accuse someone.

  • I was in such a rush  I forgot to turn off the iron and had to go back home so I was really late for work this morning.

jump at something:  to quickly and eagerly take an opportunity.

  • I jumped at the first opportunity  to work so that’s how I started mowing lawns when I was 10 years old.

jump down someone’s throat:  to severely criticize someone.

  • Don’t jump down his throat  just because you disagree or he’ll stop talking to us.

jump in:  to quickly get involved in something.

  • Don’t try to jump in  when your mother and I are talking.

jump in with both feet:  to quickly and completely get involved with something.

  • Whenever I start a new sport, I jump in with both feet  and by all the equipment, clothing and lessons.

jump off the deep end:  to take immediate and drastic action.

  • Don’t jump off the deep end  and move from this apartment just because you saw one little mouse.

jump off the shelves:  to sell very quickly.

  • Sorry, we don’t have any more of those phones left — when they went on sale last Friday they jumped off the shelves.

(almost/nearly) jump out of one’s skin:  to be suddenly very frightened.

  • When I was walking to my car a rat ran out in front of me and I almost jumped out of my skin.
  • Don’t sneak up on me like that — I almost jumped out of my skin.

jump the gun:  to start before it’s time to begin.

  • Last year we jumped the gun  with our sales promotion so we better time it right this year.

go / jump through hoops:  to do a series of difficult or unpleasant things in order to get something you want or something you need to do.

  • My husband jumped through hoops  to get my son into private school and he got expelled the second day!
  • Working in the private sector is amazing—I used to have to go through hoops  just to get a new pen and notebook.

jump to conclusions:  to assume something or make a decision without carefully thinking about it.

  • We found these condoms in your purse — but before we jump to conclusions  we wanted to talk to you.


the jury is still out:  a decision still hasn’t been made.

  • “Are you going to Europe the summer?” “The jury still out but I’ll find out if my holiday request is approved very soon.”


just in case:  if something happens.

  • Just in case I’m late this evening, please take the dog out for a walk.
  • You better take some cash with you just in case  they don’t accept credit cards.

just now:  a short time ago.

  • Just now  on the news they announced there was a terrible earthquake in Japan.

just what the doctor ordered:  the exact thing that is needed.

  • Thanks so much for the scented candles — it’s just what the doctor ordered.

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

Popular English idioms beginning with "J" practice

Now that you've learned many of the popular English idioms that start with "J," it's time to practice by creating a few of your own sentences. This will help you remember the expressions.

There's no substitute for practice. I wish I could do it for you but it's up to you to make the effort to learn. I promise that the more you practice, the more you will remember. And, don't worry, I will revise any mistakes in your practice sentences.

Write your practice sentences in the comments section below.

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