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

How many common phrases and popular sayings can you think of? The total number of them that are used 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 of them existing, you’ll likely come across some that you’re unfamiliar with. Then you may wonder: “What does that mean, and where does it come from?”

Well, that’s what Know Your Phrase is for! We have a list that’s full 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. Then pick a letter to start exploring, or you can choose a category from the slider below.

Phrases and Sayings – Newest

phrases - have your cake and eat it tooYou Can’t Have Your Cake And Eat It Too

This proverb says “you can’t have your cake and eat it too,” but why can’t you do both? Learn more on that, plus see the meaning and origin of this common phrase.

Down The Rabbit Hole sayingGoing Down The Rabbit Hole

​What does it mean to “go down the rabbit hole”? Learn the meaning of this phrase and see where it comes from.

The saying, beauty lies in the eye of the beholder– Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

Do you think this painting I worked on looks nice? No? Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Find out the meaning of this phrase, and more.

phrases - let sleeping dogs lie– Metaphor Examples and Sentences

What’s the difference between metaphors and similes? Find out with some simple metaphor examples and explanations.

Here you will find several popular sayings that come from sports, including baseball, boxing, and more. This list will grow as more terms are added to the site, so check back to see more.

phrases, football sports

Here is a list of common phrases that are related to animals. There are dogs, cats, and more! This page will get bigger as more expressions are added.

phrases about animals

A delicious list of sayings related to food, drink, and eating. Take a look, it's as easy as pie! Unless it's not your cup of tea. Alright, I'll stop.

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Common Phrases In English

Note: Here are 15 popular phrases that begin with the letters A, B, and C. These are only a few examples. If you want the full list, use the menu at the top.

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 that has 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’s plenty more expressions on here to learn about, over 170+ and more will be coming. So go learn about their meanings and where they come, or in other words, their origin.

Popular Sayings, Their Origins

The origin of some sayings are unknown. When this is the case, here’s what will generally happen: If any plausible explanations exist that try to explain the origins of a phrase, then these will be included on the saying’s page. If no explanations exist, then there is pretty much always a quote that’s included on the idiom’s page. These quotes are typically the earliest known appearance of the expression in print. They often come from old books, newspapers, poems, or plays, and are sometimes centuries old. It’s possible that older recordings exist than the ones I have listed, and this is probably because I am unaware.

Also, just to be clear: The quotes on the page are there to give the reader an idea on how old a phrase is. It does not mean that the phrase originated from that year. So, for example, if the earliest appearance of a saying is found in a newspaper from the year 1900, and I quote it, this does not mean the term originates from that exact year. It simply means the phrase is at least that old.

Anyways, with that said, more common sayings and their meanings are being added soon, so consider checking back.

About Know Your Phrase

Put simply, when you explore this site, you can learn the meaning and origin of popular sayings. Since tons of idioms are used in different languages around the world, the chances are high that you’ll bump into a few that you’ve never heard of before. And if that happens, then let us help! Just use our alphabetical list of common phrases to learn all about them.

There’s also specific pages with a list of sayings related to animals, food, and sports. These lists are growing with time, so check back for more. Of course, we do not have every idiom in existence on here, so you might not be able to find the one you’re looking for. But with more popular sayings being placed on here, the one you’re looking for maybe show up eventually. Alright, now get to exploring!