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Nail in the coffin

A nail in someone or something’s coffin is a problem or event that is a clear step towards an inevitable failure.

Nail-biter

If a game, election, contest, etc, is a nail-biter, it is exciting because the competitors are so close that it is impossible to predict the result.

Nature abhors a vacuum

This idiom is used to express the idea that empty or unfilled spaces are unnatural as they go against the laws of nature and physics.

Nature of the beast

The basic characteristics of something is the nature of the beast; often used when there’s an aspect of something that cannot be changed or that is unpleasant or difficult.

Neck and neck

If two competitors or candidates, etc, are neck and neck, then they are very close and neither is clearly winning.

Neck of the woods

If someone talks about their neck of the woods, they mean the area where they live.

Need no introduction

Someone who is very famous and known to everyone needs no introduction.

Needle in a haystack

If trying to find something is like looking for a needle in a haystack, it means that it is very difficult, if not impossible to find among everything around it.

Neither fish nor fowl

Something or someone that is neither fish nor fowl doesn’t really fit into any one group.

Neither here nor there

If something is neither here nor there, it is of very little importance.

Neither use nor ornament

Something that serves no purpose and is not aesthetically pleasing is neither use nor ornament.

Nerves of steel

If someone has nerves of steel, they don’t get frightened when other people do.

Nervous Nellie

Someone excessively worried or apprehensive is a nervous Nellie (or Nelly).

Nest egg

If you have some money saved for the future, it is a nest egg.

Never a rose without the prick

This means that good things always have something bad as well; like the thorns on the stem of a rose.

Never darken my door again

This is a way of telling someone never to visit you again.

New blood

If something needs new blood, it has become stale and needs new ideas or people to invigorate it.

New brush sweeps clean

‘A new brush sweeps clean’ means that someone with a new perspective can make great changes. However, the full version is ‘a new brush sweeps clean, but an old brush knows the corners’, which warns that experience is also a valuable thing. Sometimes ‘broom’ is used instead of ‘brush’.

New kid on the block

A new kid on the block is a person who has recently joined a company, organisation, team, etc, and does not know how things work yet.

New lease of life

If someone finds new enthusiasm and energy for something, they have a new lease of life.

New man

(UK) A New man is a man who believes in complete equality of the sexes and shares domestic work equally.

New sheriff in town

This is used when a new authority figure takes charge.

New York minute

(USA) If something happens in a New York minute, it happens very fast.

Newfangled

People who don’t like new methods, technologies, etc, describe them as newfangled, which means new but not as good or nice as the old ones.

Nice as pie

If a person is nice as pie, they are surprisingly very kind and friendly. “After our argument, she was nice as pie!”

Nick of time

If you do something in the nick of time, you do it at the very last minute or second.

Nickel tour

(USA) If someone gives you a nickel tour, they show you around a place. (‘Fifty-cent tour’ is also used.)

Night owl

A night owl is someone who goes to bed very late.

Ninth circle of hell

In Dante’s Inferno, the ninth circle of hell is the centre where the worst punishments are found, so it is used idiomatically for something that couldn’t get worse.

Nip and tuck

A close contest where neither opponent seems to be gaining the advantage.

Nip at the bit

If someone is nipping at the bit, they are anxious to get something done and don’t want to wait.

Nip it in the bud

If you nip something in the bud, you deal with a problem when it is still small, before it can grow into something serious.

Nitty gritty

If people get down to the nitty gritty, they concentrate on the most important and serious issues.

No bed of roses

If something isn’t a bed of roses, it is difficult.

No can do

No can do means that the speaker can’t do whatever it is that has been asked of him or her.

No go

Something that will not work. ‘A square peg in a round hole is a no go.’

No good deed goes unpunished

This means that life is unfair and people can do or try to do good things and still end up in a lot of trouble.

No great shakes

If someone is no great shakes at something, they are not very good at it.

No harm, no foul

There’s no problem when no harm or damage is done, such as the time my sister-in-law stole the name we’d chosen for a boy and we both ended up having girls.

No holds barred

If there are no holds barred, there are no rules of conduct; you can do anything.

No ifs or buts

Ifs and Buts is a term used to describe the reasons people give for not wanting to do something. To show that you don’t wish to accept any excuses, you can tell somebody that you wish to hear no ifs or buts Here IF & BUT have become nouns

No laughing matter

Something that is no laughing matter is very serious.

No love lost

If there is no love lost between two people they have a strong enmity towards or hate for the other and make no effort to conceal it.

No pain, no gain

Achievements require some sort of sacrifice.

No quarter

This means without mercy. We can say no quarter given or asked.

No question

This idiom means that something is certain or definite.

No questions asked

If something is to be done and no questions asked, then it doesn’t matter what methods are used or what rules are broken to ensure that it gets done.

No skin off my nose

If something’s no skin off your nose, it doesn’t affect or bother you at all.

No smoke without fire

This idiom means that when people suspect something, there is normally a good reason for the suspicion, even if there is no concrete evidence.  (‘Where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire’ is also used.)

No spine

If someone has no spine, they lack courage or are cowardly.

No spring chicken

If someone is no spring chicken, they are not young.

No strings attached

If something has no strings attached, there are no obligations or requirements involved.

No time for

If you have no time for an activity, you have absolutely no desire to spend or waste any time doing it. You can have no time for people, too.

No time like the present

If people say that there’s no time like the present , they believe that it is far better to do something now than to leave it for later, in which case it might never get done.

No time to lose

If there’s no time to lose, then it’s time to get started otherwise it won’t be finished on time.

No two ways about it

If there are no two ways about something, there is no other possible interpretation.

No use to man or beast

If something or someone is no use to man or beast, they it or they are utterly useless.

Nod’s as good as a wink

(UK) ‘A nod’s as good as a wink’ is a way of saying you have understood something that someone has said, even though it was not said directly.  The full phrase (sometimes used in the UK ) is ‘a nod’s as good as a wink to a blind horse’.

Noddy work

(UK) Unimportant or very simple tasks are noddy work.

None so blind as those who will not see

This idiom is used when people refuse to accept facts presented to them. (‘None so deaf as those who will not hear’ is an alternative.)

Nose in the air

If someone has their nose in the air, they behave in a way that is meant to show that they are superior to others.

Nosy parker

(UK) A nosy parker is someone who is excessively interested in other people’s lives. (‘Nosey parker’ is an alternative spelling.)

Not a snowball’s chance in hell

There is absolutely no possibility of something hapening if there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell.

Not all there

If someone isn’t all there, they are a little bit stupid or crazy.

Not bat an eye

If someone doesn’t bat an eye, they do not react when other people normally would.

Not born yesterday

When someone says that they weren’t born yesterday, they mean that they are not naive or easily fooled.

Not cricket

(UK) If something is not cricket, it is unfair.

Not enough room to swing a cat

If a room is very small, you can say that there isn’t enough room to swing a cat in it.

Not give a fig

If you don’t give a fig about something, you don’t care about it at all, especially used to express how little one cares about another’s opinions or actions.

Not give a monkey’s

(UK) If you couldn’t give a monkey’s about something, you don’t care at all about it.

Not have the heart

If you don’t have the heart to do something, you don’t have the strength or courage to do something. (Usually used in the negative)

Not have two pennies to rub together

If someone hasn’t got two pennies to rub together, they are very poor indeed.

Not hurt a fly

Somebody who would not hurt a fly is not aggressive.

Not know beans about

(USA) If someone doesn’t know beans about something, they know nothing about it.

Not know you are born

This indicates that the person described is unaware of his or her good fortune or is unaware of how difficult day to day life was before he/she was born. Typical usage: ‘Kids today don’t know they are born’.

Not much cop

Describing a film or something as not much cop is a way of saying that you didn’t think much of it.

Not my cup of tea

If something is not your cup of tea, you don’t like it very much.

Not on my watch

Someone distancing themselves from a situation could say that it is not on their watch.

Not our bag

If something is not your bag, it is not really suitable for your needs or you don’t like it much.

Not the only pebble on the beach

If something is not the only pebble on the beach, there are other possibilities or alternatives.

Not to be sneezed at

If something is not to be sneezed at, it should be taken seriously.

Not wash

If a story or explanation will not wash, it is not credible.

Not worth a red cent

(USA) If something is not worth a red cent, it has no value.

Not worth a tinker’s dam

This means that something is worthless and dates back to when someone would travel around the countryside repairing things such as a kitchen pot with a hole in it. He was called a ‘tinker’. His dam was used to stop the flow of soldering material being used to close the hole. Of course his ‘trade’ is passé, thus his dam is worth nothing.

Notch on your belt

A success or achievement that might help you in the future is a notch on your belt.

Nothing to crow about

If something’s nothing to crow about, it’s not particularly good or special.

Nothing to write home about

Something that is not special or good is nothing to write home about.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

You can’t win if you don’t join in the game; if you don’t participate in something, you will not achieve anything.

Now and then

This idiom means ‘occasionally’.

Null and void

If something’s null and void, it is invalid or is no longer applicable.

Number cruncher

A number cruncher is an accountant or someone who is very good at dealing with numbers and calculations.

Nuts and bolts

The nuts and bolts are the most essential components of something.

Nutty as a fruitcake

Someone who’s nutty as a fruitcake is irrational or crazy. (This can be shortened to ‘a fruitcake’.)

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