B Idioms

This B idioms list has idiomatic expressions with words beginning with the letter B. "In brief," I've provided numerous important idioms starting with the letter "b" with lots of examples to help you learn more easily. So "breathe easier" and let's get started!

This list will be frequently updated with new definitions and examples, quizzes and other information to help you learn and remember these expressions.

Note: Each idiomatic expression does not always start with the letter “b.” This list is organized to include idioms whose main subject or action word starts with the letter “b.”

List of B Idioms


back away from (something / someone):   to move away from something or stop supporting something.

  • Our supervisor wanted us to start working on Sundays but after everyone complained he backed away from  the idea.
  • We backed away from launching a new product  after we surveyed our customers and they didn't seem enthusiastic about it.

back down (from something / someone):  to not continue with a threat to do something.

  • The workers backed down from  their plan to go on strike when the company director began to negotiate with them.
  • My father has such a bad temper that he constantly threatens people but luckily he usually backs down  after a short while before too much damage is done.

back off:  to not do something you planned on doing.

  • I worked really hard on the project for the past two weeks but my boss told me to back off  it until the client paid its invoice.
  • If you back off punishing Samantha for stealing  she'll never change and won't take you seriously again.

back on one’s feet:  to be healthy again after sickness.

  • I couldn’t do anything for two weeks while I had the flu but now I’m back on my feet.
  • My doctor told me to rest and not walk for a week but I didn't listen. As a result, I got a stress fracture and it took a whole month for me to get back on my feet.

back out (of something):  to not completely finish something one promised to do.

  • My friend and I were supposed to go on holiday together but she backed out  at the last minute.
  • This time, make sure you get a lawyer to draft a good legal contract so you will be protected if the builder backs out of the project.

back to back:  one thing immediately happening after another thing.

  • On Wednesdays, I’m really busy because I have four classes back to back.
  • We were really unlucky to get back to back  snow storms this winter.

back to square one:  to be back at the starting point of something.

  • I picked up all the leaves and branches from my lawn yesterday but there was a storm last night and now I’m back to square one.
  • In September I could run 5 miles but I didn't exercise all winter and now I'm back to square one  trying to run just one mile.

behind one’s back:  something happening when someone is not present.

  • My colleague is really nice to me but I don’t trust him because I know he talks negatively about me behind my back.
  • Yesterday I learned my girlfriend was cheating on me behind my back  with my best friend.

stab someone in the back:  to cause someone harm or do something negatively to someone.

  • I cannot believe my friend stabbed me in the back  by telling my teacher I wasn’t really sick when I stayed home yesterday.
  • Watch out for the director's secretary because she'll stab you in the back  the first opportunity she gets.

watch your back:  to be careful to notice what’s happening around you.

  • I have to watch my back  at this office because people are unfriendly and competitive.
  • Watch your back  when you're traveling abroad because there are lots of pickpockets at the train and bus stations.


not (half) bad:  good enough or reasonably good.

  • Let's eat in the university cafeteria. The food is not half bad  and the price is great.
  • The movie we wanted to see was sold out so we saw a romantic comedy instead and it actually wasn't half bad.

bad blood (between people):  bad or unfriendly relationships between people or groups of people.

  • There’s been bad blood  between two of my best friends since they fought over the same girl this summer and now I have to see them separately.
  • Unfortunately there's bad blood between my parents  since their divorce, especially since my mother is dating a successful young lawyer.

bad hair day:  a day when everything isn’t going well (such as when it’s hard to groom your hair the way you want it to be).

  • Sorry I can't go out—I’m having a bad hair day  so I’ve decided to just stay home and rest tonight.
  • Whenever I'm having a bad hair day  I just throw on a baseball cap and get going anyhow.
  • He's having a bad hair day  despite the fact that he's bald.

bad mouth (someone):  to say bad things about someone.

  • I heard you were bad mouthing me  so if you have a problem tell me right now.
  • I really hate it when my uncle bad mouths my aunt  when I stay with them—it makes me feel so uncomfortable.


have bag’s under one’s eyes:  to have dark puffy circles under the eyes.

  • I have bags under my eyes  because I was watching the football game last night and only slept three hours.
  • Try this concealer cream—it will help reduce the appearance of those bags under your eyes.

pack someone’s bags:  to permanently leave or go away from a place.

  • If your roommates never clean up, eat all your food and make a lot of noise, maybe it would be better if you packed your bags.
  • When I was 15 years old, I threatened to run away and I was shocked when my parents told me to go ahead and pack my bags.


ball in someone’s court:  the moment when someone needs to take the next action, move or get an answer from someone else.

  • I filled out the application and provided all that information they asked for so now the ball is in their court  and all I can do is wait.
  • I sent the agreement over for them to sign so the ball is now in their court.

drop the ball:  to stop working on something before a goal or project is completed.

  • We lost the contract when I went on vacation because my coworkers dropped the ball  and didn’t submit all the documents for the proposal.
  • You dropped the ball  making sure your children did their homework so it's no surprise they didn't do well this semester.

start / get the ball rolling:  to begin or start something.

  • I want to have a nice garden this summer so I started the ball rolling  by planting some seeds in little pots near the window in my dining room. I'll plant these seedlings outside next month when they're larger.
  • Don't wait until spring to start exercising. Just get the ball rolling  now by walking the seven blocks from the metro to your office each day instead of taking the bus.

have a ball:  to have a fun or enjoyable time.

  • I used to hate exercise but I started taking dance lessons and now I’m exercising and having a ball  at the same time.
  • We had a ball  on the cruise and have already planned to take another one in Alaska in the summer.

on the ball:  to be alert, focused and able to react to something quickly.

  • The students in my advanced placement classes are really on the ball  so I have to be careful not to make any mistakes while I'm teaching.
  • Please stay on the ball  with this client—we really need to keep the contract with this company.


bang for the buck:  to have good value for money spent. (note: in English the word "buck" is slang for a dollar).

  • I recommend you buy this television because it has the best bang for the buck.
  • Getting your cable TV, internet and mobile phone services together from one company offers the best bang for the buck.

bang one’s head against the wall:  to feel frustrated trying to do something that’s not possible.

  • I try to suggest new projects each week at the staff meeting but I feel like I’m banging my head against the wall  because no one listens to me.
  • I was banging my head against the wall  trying to lose weight without exercising.


bank on something:  to depend on or trust something.

  • When your baby is born you can bank on  me for advice and babysitting help.
  • I never bank on my friends  to give me advice—I talk to my priest regularly instead.

break the bank:  to be too costly or expensive.

  • These days you can easily buy a smart phone without breaking the bank.
  • I wanted to buy a new car but realized with my present finances it would break the bank.  So I purchased a used car and it's practically brand new.


drive a hard bargain:  to be good at negotiating a beneficial arrangement.

  • I was able to drive a hard bargain  and get a higher salary and an extra week of vacation because I have a lot more experience than any other candidate.
  • Send Jonathan to the meeting with our suppliers—he really knows how to drive a hard bargain.

more than someone/something bargained for:  to get something in addition to what was expected.

  • I tried to have a baby for three years but when I got pregnant with triplets it was much more than I bargained for.
  • Owning a house sounded great but now that I have to pay insurance, mow the lawn and fix repairs myself, I realize it's more than I bargained for.


bark is worse than one’s bite:  someone is not as bad or as difficult as they seem to be.

  • My girlfriend told me her father’s bark is worse than his bite  and not to worry when I meet him this weekend.
  • Don't be intimidated by the #1 seed in the tournament—his bark is worse than his bite.

bark up the wrong tree:  trying to achieve something but doing it in the wrong way or believing an explanation for something that isn’t true.

  • My sister wanted a loan from me but she’s barking up the wrong tree  because I have no money.
  • Joe is usually the student causing problems in class but this time the teacher was barking up the wrong tree, I was the one who threw the pencil.


off base:  wrong, not correct.

  • You're way off base  if you think you can graduate from college without studying.
  • Unfortunately, the financial projections were completely off base  and we don't have enough money left to complete the project.

touch base (with someone):  to contact someone.

  • When you return from holiday let’s touch base  so we can set up our next appointment.
  • I've been careful to touch base with my former supervisors  over the years so I can use them as employment references in the future.


(don't) put all your eggs in one basket:  having all of your resources or efforts in just one possibility is very risky.

  • You need to get a financial adviser who can help you manage your money because you're risking everything by putting all your eggs in one basket.
  • Don't you think you might be putting all your eggs in one basket  by only trying to get dates with supermodels?


recharge one's battery:  to rest or relax in order to get energy back to do things again.

  • We just returned from our cabin in the woods—no smart phones, television or traffic for an entire week was just what we needed to recharge our batteries.
  • I'm going on a cruise next week—it's been a long time since I've recharged my batteries.


be-all and end-all:  something really important or good.

  • Getting accepted into an Ivy League university is the be-all and end-all  for me.
  • She thought becoming a cheerleader was the be-all and end-all  but she really hates how snobby the girls are on the cheer leading squad.

be game:  to be ready to participate in something.

  • I’m game  for whatever you want to do this weekend.
  • My girlfriend is the best because she's game  for hanging out with my guy friends, playing sports and doing things outside.

be into something/someone:  to be really interested or active in something/someone.

  • My boyfriend is really into  shopping and fashion but I hate it.
  • I’m into  Mozart and classical music these days.

be off:  to depart, leave, or go away.

  • Are you leaving so soon? Yes, I’m off  to the grocery store before it closes.
  • I'm off  to get some lunch. Does anyone want to join me?

be over:  to be finished.

  • I’m so glad final exams are over  and summer is here.
  • When the storm was over  we were surprised to see a huge tree had fallen into our neighbors' living room.


spill the beans:  to tell someone a secret or tell someone information before you were supposed to.

  • My colleague spilled the beans  that I had found a new position and it got back to my supervisor before I had given my notice of resignation.
  • Doctors say that it's best not to spill the beans  to anyone that you're pregnant until you have reached three months into your pregnancy.


bear a grudge (against someone):  to continue to be angry and not forgive someone.

  • I apologized many times for calling my sister fat when she was a teenager but she still bears a grudge against me  25 years later.
  • I suggest you see a psychiatrist about this situation. It's terrible what happened to you but bearing a grudge against someone  is really bad for your emotional and physical health.

bear fruit:  to produce a result.

  • I started to eat yogurt instead of donuts for breakfast and after three months my new diet is bearing fruit — I’ve lost five pounds already.
  • I've been paying an extra $25 dollars on my credit card balance every month and after nine months my efforts are finally bearing fruit.

bear (something) in mind:  to consider or think about something.

  • Before you book your vacation bear in mind  that many flights get delayed during the winter due to bad weather so you might want to buy travel insurance.
  • Bear in mind  that the bus may come earlier or later due to traffic so you should always plan accordingly.

bear out something / bear something out:  to prove or confirm that something is true.

  • My own experience bears out  research that shows drinking diet soft drinks doesn’t help people lose weight.
  • For the first time in many years, the election results did not bear out what the polls predicted  beforehand. 


beauty is only skin deep:  a person's inner beauty (not their outer appearance) is the most important factor.

  • I really believe that beauty is only skin deep—my wife may be average in looks but she's kind, gentle and super smart.
  • Although beauty is only skin deep, Queen Rania is gorgeous on both the inside and outside.
  • My brother says beauty is only skin deep  but then he only dates fashion models.
  • My parents always tell me that I'm wonderful and beauty is only skin deep  but the guys at school only like the pretty girls.


Tighten one's belt:  to spend less than usual in order to save money.

  • We had to tighten our belts  after my wife left her job but it's worth it to have her home with our baby.
  • I'm not raising your allowance again—either tighten your belt  or get a job!
  • When I was a student I really had to tighten my belt—I ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches and spaghetti with pasta sauce.


a little bird told me:  this is used to say that you got information from someone but you are not going to say who that person is.

  • A little bird told me  that you're going to have a baby this spring. Congratulations!
  • Either a little bird told my girlfriend  that I've been talking to Shelly or she's been secretly reading my phone messages again.


blind as a bat:  not able to see or to not see well.

  • I keep an set of emergency eye gasses in my desk drawer because sometimes I misplace my regular eyeglasses in the house and can't find them because I'm blind as a bat.
  • My dog is blind as a bat  but her hearing and sense of smell are now much keener.

blind date:  a date (social meeting) where two people have never met before.

  • I did not want to go on a blind date  that my mother arranged but I'm really glad I did because that's how I met my husband.
  • Since I got divorced everyone has been trying to set me up on blind dates  but I just want to remain single for awhile.


bore the pants off:  to be extremely boring or uninteresting to someone else.

  • This story is really boring the pants off me — Can you please get to the point?
  • The ballet bored the pants off me  so please don't make me go again.


best thing since sliced bread:  this describes a new person or thing that's really great or amazing.

  • The new iPhone is the best thing since sliced bread—I absolutely have to buy one.
  • This new meal service delivers ingredients that are already measured, chopped and sliced and ready to cook—it's absolutely the best thing since sliced bread  and saves me so much time preparing dinner.


breathe easier:  to become more calm or relaxed.

  • You'll  breathe easier  after your mid-term exams are over.
  • Most people breathe easier  when they learn how to budget their money and learn to plan for unexpected expenses.


in brief:  something that is said with very few words or details.

  • In brief,  he didn't get the job and doesn't want to talk about it.
  • I can't give you the details now but, in brief, I'm having surgery on Friday.


a drop in the bucket:  a very small or unimportant amount when compared to something else.

  • The bake sale raised only a drop in the bucket  of what's needed to buy the new football uniforms.
  • "Two cans of beer at lunch?" "Yes. That's actually just a drop in the bucket  of what I usually drink."

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