English idioms of the body, face and head

There are many English idioms connected with parts of the body. Here are some of the more common ones.

The heart

break someone’s heart = upset someone greatly: “She broke his heart when she left him.”

learn something off by heart = learn something completely: “I’ve learnt this off by heart – I’m bound to pass the exam!”

you’re all heart! = when you tell someone sarcastically how kind they are: “Thanks for giving me all this work – you’re all heart!”

hand on heart = promise with sincerity: “Hand on heart, it’s the honest truth.”

have the heart = be able to give someone bad news: “I didn’t have the heart to tell him he’d failed.”

a heart of gold = be a very kind person: “She’ll always help – she has a heart of gold.”


hand over = pass on something: “Before I leave, I have to hand over all my work.”

get out of hand = become impossible to manage: “You’ll have to deal with this problem before it gets out of hand.”

know something like the back of your hand = know something extremely well: “He knows London like the back of his hand.”

have your hands full = be very busy: “I can’t do anything about it now – my hands are full.”

in hand = under control: “The company report is in hand – you’ll have it next week.”

live hand to mouth = only earn enough money for food: “After he lost his job, he had to live hand to mouth for a couple of months.”

give someone a hand = help someone: “He always gives me a hand with the housework.”

have someone in the palm of your hand = have influence over someone: “He’s got her in the palm of his hand.”

be caught red-handed = be caught doing something bad: “The children were caught red-handed picking the flowers.”


butter fingers = be clumsy and drop things: “You’ve dropped my vase! Butter fingers!”

keep your fingers crossed = wish something for someone: “Keep your fingers crossed for me tomorrow – it’s my job interview.”

under your thumb = control someone: “She’s got him under her thumb – he won’t do anything without asking her first.”


twist someone’s arm = persuade someone: “I didn’t want to go out, but he twisted my arm.”

cost an arm and a leg = cost a fortune: “The car cost an arm and a leg – it’ll take them ages to pay back the loan.”

Feet and legs

put your foot in it = say or do something you shouldn’t: “I think I’ve put my foot in it – I told her about the party.”

have itchy feet = not able to settle down in one place: “She’s going off travelling again – she’s got really itchy feet.”

keep someone on their toes = keep someone alert: “Our teacher keeps us on our toes – we have to pay attention in class.”

stand on your own two feet = be independent: “I don’t need your help – I can stand on my own two feet.”

have two left feet = be awkward or clumsy: “He’s a terrible dancer – he’s got two left feet!”

walk on eggshells = be careful about what you say or do: “She’s in a terrible mood – you’ll have to walk on eggshells around her.”

foot the bill = pay the bill: “He had to foot the bill for the party.”

The back

go behind someone’s back = do something secretly: “She went behind my back and told my boss I wanted a new job.”

back off = stop trying to force someone to do something: “Will you just back off and let me decide what I should do!”

back down = accept defeat: “He finally backed down and let me buy a pet rabbit.”

back someone up = support someone: “Thank you for backing me up in the meeting.”

put your back into something = work very hard at something: “She put her back into it and got good results.”

stab someone in the back = betray someone: “Be careful of him – he’ll stab you in the back if it gets him what he wants.”

Idioms that use part of the face

face-to-face = in person: “We need to arrange a face-to-face meeting.”

face the music = take responsibility for a difficult situation: “We’ve got to face the music – this company is going under.”

face up to responsibilities = accept responsibilities: “You need to face up to your responsibilities – it’s time you got a job and started to save money.”

be two-faced = be hypocritical: “I can’t believe she told you that she likes Harry – she told me she hates him! She’s so two-faced!”


be all ears = listen attentively: “So, you’ve got an idea. I’m all ears.”

have an ear for = be good at music: “He’s doing well in his piano lessons – he’s definitely got an ear for music.”

keep your ears to the ground = listen out for something: “I’ll keep my ears to the ground – the next time I hear someone wants to rent out a flat, I’ll let you know.”

up to your ears in something = be extremely busy: “I’m sorry I can’t come out this weekend – I’m up to my ears in work.”


keep your eyes peeled = watch extremely attentively: “Keep your eyes peeled for him – he’s in the crowd somewhere.”

keep an eye out for = watch for someone or something: “Keep an eye out for the next turning on the left.”

eye up = look at someone because you think they look nice: “Whenever she goes to a club, she always gets eyed up by older men.”

have your eye on something / someone = want someone or something: “I’ve got my eye on a new computer.”

have eyes in the back of your head = warn someone that you can see exactly what they are doing: “Don’t make those signs at me – I’ve got eyes in the back of my head!”

see eye to eye on something = agree with someone: “Those two don’t always see eye to eye – they often argue.”

Other parts of the face

stick your nose in = get involved in something or someone else’s business: “I wish she wouldn’t stick her nose in like that – I really don’t want anyone else’s help.”

on the tip of my tongue = when you’ve forgotten the word you want to say: “What’s the word for it – it’s on the tip of my tongue…”

tongue-tied = when you can’t say anything because you feel shy: “She’s tongue-tied when she has to speak in public.”

by the skin of my teeth = just manage to do something: “He got out of the burning building by the skin of his teeth.”

cut your teeth on something = where you learn to do something: “He’s the best man to run the company – he cut his teeth in the Production Department and ran it successfully for years.”

teething problems = start-up problems with a new project: “We’re having teething problems with our distribution systems.”

have a cheek = be disrespectful: “He’s got a cheek saying you never help him – I saw you writing his report for him!”

a frog in my throat = when your throat tickles and makes you cough: “Sorry I can’t stop coughing – I’ve got a frog in my throat.”

stick your neck out = do or say something that might have negative results: “I’m going to stick my neck out and say what I think.”

be up to your neck in = be in a difficult situation: “He’s up to his neck in debt.”

breathe down someone’s neck = check constantly what someone else is doing: “I can’t write this letter with you breathing down my neck!”

Idioms that use parts of the head

head to head = in a race, when two contestants are doing as well as each other: “They are head to head in the polls.”

off the top of your head = when you give an answer to something without having the time to reflect: “What’s our market strategy?” “Well, off the top of my head, I can suggest…”

have a good head for = be good at something: “He’s an accountant and he has a good head for figures.”

have your head in the clouds = dream: “He’s always got his head in the clouds – he makes all these impossible plans.”

go over your head = not understand something: “The lesson went over my head – I didn’t understand a word of it.”

keep your head = stay calm: “He always keeps his head in a crisis.”

be head over heels in love = be completely in love: “You can see that he’s head over heels in love with her.”

keep your head above water = manage to survive financially: “Despite the recession, they kept their heads above water.”

use your head = think about something to solve a problem: “It’s quite simple – just use your head!”

English idioms using ‘mind’

keep / bear something in mind = remember something for future use: “I need a job in computers.” “I’ll bear it in mind – we often have vacancies for people with your skills.”

make up your mind = decide: “I can’t make up my mind about the job offer.”

be in two minds about something = unable to decide: “I’m in two minds about buying a new car.”

be out of your mind = be really worried: “Where have you been? I’ve been out of my mind with worry.”

have a mind of your own = not be influenced by other people: “Don’t tell me what to do! I’ve got a mind of my own, you know.”

give someone a piece of your mind = tell someone how angry you are with them: “I’m going to give him a piece of my mind. He knows I cooked dinner for him and now he’s an hour late.”

Body Idioms

Choose the correct answer.