Ocean and sea idioms

These ocean and sea idioms are often used in everyday conversational English.


An infographic with the 8 ocean and sea idioms and sentence examples listed on this page.


An idiom is a fixed phrase that doesn't change and the meaning is metaphorical rather than literal so you cannot usually know the meaning from looking at the individual words.  To make it easier for yo to learn them, I created different lists of idioms and infographics to help you as you study English idioms.

More examples of ocean and sea idioms

Here are a few more examples to help make the meaning of these ocean and sea idioms even clearer:

a drop in the ocean:  A small amount of what is needed (especially compared to a larger amount of something).

  • Today there was a brief rain shower but it was a drop in the ocean of the rain needed to put out the wildfires.
  • The donations are a drop in the ocean of our operating budget. Most of our income comes from used-clothing sales.
  • Although I'm pleased I lost 5 lbs, it's a drop in the ocean of what I have to lose before my wedding next year.
  • I'm a surgeon but my income is a drop in the ocean compared to Kim or Kylie Kardashian.


sink or swim:  To succeed or fail by your own efforts.

  • Sometimes it's heartbreaking but I find it's best to let my children sink or swim in most things in life.
  • People often find out just how strong they are when they're forced to sink or swim.
  • On the first day, before any training, we give the interns a project to complete to see if they will sink or swim.  Most fail, but we are most interested in their attitude during the process.


washed up:  Someone's career is no longer successful.

  • It's very common to see washed-up actors trying to become directors later in their careers.
  • In Hollywood, it's hard to be a female actor because they consider you washed up by the time you reach 30.
  • If you want to hear washed-up singers, go to your local community fair ground where they often perform at local events.


sea change:  A complete change or transformation.

  • There's been a sea change in thinking about sexual harassment since the "Me too" movement.
  • In most of the world there's a sea change in popular opinion about global warming, except for conservative Republicans in the United States.


between the devil and the deep blue sea:  A difficult situation where there are two equally undesirable options.

  • Help! I'm between the devil and the deep blue sea: My best friend from college and my best friend from high school are both getting married on the same day in different states and they both want me to be in their wedding.
  • Until I got this job I was between the devil and the deep blue sea—borrowing from one credit card to make the minimum payment for several others.


make waves:  To be shocked or to upset people by doing things in a different way.

  • My son is very outspoken and is always making waves at school.
  • In my culture, people are encouraged to conform to social norms and not make waves.
  •  I finally quit my job because I was constantly being accused of making waves for simply speaking up at staff meetings and taking credit for the good work that I did.


whale of a time:   To really enjoy yourself.

  • I love going to my high school reunions—we always have a whale of a time.
  • [ring, ring] "Hello? Where are you? Come down to the common room—we're having a whale of a time playing beer pong."
  • We had a whale of a time at the beach last weekend. You should come next time.


other fish in the sea:  There are many other suitable romantic partners.

  • I know this is the last thing that you want to hear but truly there are other fish in the sea and you'll only meet them if you come out with us tonight.
  • Who cares if he you didn't call you back. There are other fish in the sea.
  • I try to remind myself that there are other fish in the sea but I can't stop thinking about Samantha.


Your turn to practice these ocean and sea idioms

Time to practice these ocean and sea idioms. Select an idiom and write an example sentence. I'll provide feedback on your sentence.


› Ocean and sea idioms

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