English Idioms List

This English idioms lists includes expressions which have a main word that begins with the letters "X, Y or Z." If you want to learn idioms that start with other letters of the alphabet: click here to go to the main idioms page

An idiom is a group of words whose meaning is different from the individual words if you looked them up separately in the dictionary. Here are the most common idioms beginning with these letters - and you'll immediately notice that there are very few idioms that have a main word beginning with "X." This is not surprising since there aren't many words that start with the letter "X."

X Idioms

x marks the spot:  an “x” is used to show the exact location (spot) of something.

  • As you can see on the diagram, x marks the spot  where the murder occurred.
  • X marks the spot on the map where we need to go for the archaeological dig.

Y Idioms


year after year:  every year for many years.

  • Year after year  my kids give me ugly ties as Christmas gifts.
  • I’ve been shopping at this store year after year  because the service is so good.

year in, year out:  every year for many years.

  • He worked at the company year in, year out  for decades before he was laid off.
  • Year in, year out  we used to go to the beach for a month but now it’s too expensive.

(all) year round:  during the whole year, happening all year.

  • Most people only eat roast turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving and Christmas but we keep it on the menu all year round  at our restaurant.
  • The indoor rink allows us to practice skating all year round.

in years:  in a long time.

  • I hadn’t seen my high school English teacher in years  but she looks exactly the same.
  • I used to smoke two packs of cigarettes a day but I haven’t had a cigarette in years.

getting on in years:  becoming old.

  • My mom is getting on in years  so we’re building an extra room in our house for her.
  • Now that were getting on in years,  we’ve decided to spend winters in Florida where it’s warm.


yell bloody murder:  to scream really loudly.

  • When the thief tried to grab my bag, I yelled bloody murder  and he let go and ran away.
  • Don’t yell bloody murder  just because you break a fingernail—I thought something seriously bad happened to you!


yes, man:   someone who always agrees with authority (always says “yes”).

  • My boss is a total yes, man  so now we have an impossible sales target from upper management.
  • It’s funny how brave you are when you complain to us but you become a total yes man  when your girlfriend is around.


you can say that again:  you strongly agree with something someone said.

  • "This pie is delicious." "You can say that again!"
  • "The weather is so hot and humid today." "You can say that again."

you can’t take it with you:  enjoy life today because you can’t take your money or possessions with you when you die.

  • Why don’t you ever drive your sports car? You can’t take it with you,  ya know?
  • I always tell my son to save some of his paycheck and he always responds, “Why? You can’t take it with you.”

you can’t teach an old dog new tricks:  the idea that older people can't learn new skills or learn how to do new things.

  • My grandfather has 5,000 followers on Twitter and Instagram—who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!

you get what to pay for the price of something usually equals its quality (especially cheap things are of low quality).

  • It’s true you get what you pay forthis $239 laptop is unbelievably slow.
  • How can you expect 5-star quality when you choose to stay at budget motel? You get what you pay for.

you’re toast:  you’re in trouble.

  • You’re toast  when your mom finds out you ruined her blouse.
  • You're toastIf you didn’t study for the exam you're going to fail it.

by yourself:  all alone.

  • If you just want to be by yourself,  why don’t you say so?
  • Driving you to all of your after school activities takes a lot of my time! I can't wait until you can drive by yourself.
  • Do you really want to get an apartment by yourself?   It'll be so expensive.

to yourself:  Keeping or having something only for you.

  • If that’s what you really believe, I suggest you keep your opinions to yourself.
  • Are you crazy? You’re always talking to yourself.

yours truly:  me, myself.

  • "Wow, who cooked all this good food?" "Yours truly."
  • That brilliant idea came from yours truly.

Z Idioms


zero in on something:  to focus or pay attention to one particular thing.

  • I think you should zero in on  chapter two because it’s the most relevant for your situation.
  • There’s a lot we could discuss at the meeting but let’s zero in on  project planning first.


zip one's lips:  to be silent; to not tell a secret (as if the lips were zipped with a zipper so the person cannot talk).

  • I’m going to resign in two weeks but zip your lips  please!
  • Don’t worry, I’ll zip my lips.


zone out:  to not pay attention to things happening around you.

  • As soon as my boyfriend talks about sports, I automatically zone out.
  • Everyone zones out  in the staff meetings or secretly checks Facebook and Twitter.


zoom in on something:  to examine or look at something more closely.

  • Zoom in on  that part of the map; I think I recognize that area.
  • I always bring binoculars to the game so I can zoom in on  all of the beautiful cheerleaders.
  • Did you know you can zoom in on  that part of the photo by doing this?

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

Practice from this English idioms list

It's most important for beginning and intermediate students to focus on understanding, rather than using idioms at the beginning. Idioms are a bit tricky and it's easy to make mistakes. But you'll remember them better if you try to form your own sentences and I'm here to help correct any mistakes. 

So in the comments section below, please try to use one or two expressions from this English idioms list to create your own sentences.

› "X, Y & Z" Idioms

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