Common Phrases, Popular Sayings – A List With Their Meaning and Origin

How many popular sayings can you think of? The total number of common phrases used in English and other languages around the world is quite staggering, yet you might only be able to name a few. You’ll often hear these expressions in every day conversations while at work, school, or even at home. With so many existing, you will likely come across some that you’re unfamiliar with. Then you’re left to wonder: “What does that mean, and where does it come from?”

Well, that’s what Know Your Phrase is for! We have a list full of hundreds of phrases and sayings. You can use this list to learn about their meaning and origin. To get started, tap (or click) the menu above. Simply choose a letter to start exploring, or choose one of the categories below.

A List of Phrases and Sayings For Animals, Sports, & More

A list of animal sayings, cute dog icon

Animal Phrases

Here is a list of common phrases related to animals. You’ll find bird, dog and cat sayings, and more!

phrases related to sports

Sports Phrases

A dictionary of popular sayings that come from sports, including baseball, boxing, and horse racing.

Food Phrases

A delicious list of sayings related to food, eating and drinking. Take a look, it’s as easy as pie! Unless, of course, it’s not your cup of tea.

Newly Added Phrases:

Take It With a Grain of Salt

Learn what ‘taking something with a grain of salt’ means. Also, you will find a few example sentences of this expression which can can help you to better understand its definition.

happy sayings faceHappy and Sad Sayings

People use a variety of phrases to express their emotions. Here is a list with some of the more commonly used sayings for feelings like happiness and sadness.

short sayings - paint the town redPaint the Town Red

Another phrase has been added to our collection of sayings. This one is about ‘painting the town red.’ Read up on its definition and check out its possible origin story.

Let Bygones Be Bygones

How about we let bygones be bygones, what do you say? This is an old English phrase that has to do with forgiveness. Learn about its meaning.

Common Phrases In English

Here is a list of 15 commonly used phrases in the English language. These are just some examples, for the full list, use the top menu:

A – Phrases

1. A Chip on Your Shoulder
Being angry about something that happened in the past; holding a grudge.

2. A Dime a Dozen
When something is extremely common and/or simple to acquire.

3. A Fool and His Money Are Soon Parted
Someone acting foolish with their money can easily lose it due to carelessness.
4. A Piece of Cake
A task that is simple to complete; something that is easy to do. Similar to the common phrase “as easy as pie.”

5. An Arm and a Leg
Something that’s very expensive; an idiom meaning the price having to be paid is costly.

B – Expressions

6. Back to Square One
Going back to the beginning; a popular saying that means a person has to start over, similar to “back to the drawing board.”

7. Barking Up The Wrong Tree
To make a wrong assumption about someone or something.
8. Beating Around the Bush
This means a person is talking about something, but they are avoiding the main point, intentionally or not. 

9. Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Being faced with two difficult choices; popular saying used to describe a dilemma.

10. Burst Your Bubble
To ruin someone’s happy moment or mood, usually by telling them disappointing news or information.

C – Phrases

11. Close But No Cigar
Coming close to a successful outcome only to fall short at the end.

12. Cry Over Spilled Milk
One shouldn’t worry over things that have already happened and that cannot be changed.

13. Cup of Joe
A cup of joe is an American nickname for a cup of coffee.
14. Curiosity Killed The Cat
An idiom meaning mind your own business, as too much poking and prodding could lead to harm.

15. Cut To The Chase
To get to the point, leaving out all of the unnecessary details. Similar to popular sayings such as “beating around the bush.”

There are plenty of other expressions on here to read about, over 200+ and counting.

The Origin of Sayings

Many of the old sayings on here have their own individual page where you can learn more about them, including their origin. However, it is not always clear where or how these expressions originated. In such cases, here is what will generally happen:

If there is speculation on how a certain phrase originated and it sounds plausible enough, then this might be added to the phrase’s individual page. However, if no theory is included, there will still usually be a quote with the saying in it. These quotes are usually pulled from old newspapers or books and they are typically the earliest known appearance of the phrase in print (that I know of). The purpose of these quotes is to give you an idea on how old it is. For example, if the earliest I have seen an expression is from a newspaper in the year 1900, then I’ll quote it. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean the term originated from that source or in that year. It simply means that it’s at least that old.

About Us

What is this site about? In a nutshell, there are hundreds of common phrases and sayings on here for you to explore. You can learn their meaning, where they possibly came from, and see them used in example sentences. This is one of the main reasons this site was created was to help people understand what these old common sayings mean. Therefore, if you haven’t already done so, use the alphabetical list at the top and start exploring! More phrases will be added to the list in time, so be sure to check back again to see what’s new.