~ P ~

Packed like sardines

If a place is extremely crowded, people are packed like sardines, or packed in like sardines.

Paddle your own canoe

(USA) If you paddle your own canoe, you do things for yourself without outside help.

Pain in the neck

If someone is very annoying and always disturbing you, they are a pain in the neck. Pain in the butt, or pain in the ass (USA), and Pain in the arse (UK) are less polite alternative forms.

Paint the town red

If you go out for a night out with lots of fun and drinking, you paint the town red.

Paint yourself into a corner

(USA) If someone paints themselves into a corner, they get themselves into a mess.

Painted Jezebel

A painted Jezebel is a scheming woman.

Pandora’s box

If you open a Pandora’s box, something you do causes all sorts of trouble that you hadn’t anticipated.

Paper over the cracks

If you paper over the cracks, you try to make something look or work better but only deal with superficial issues, not the real underlying problems.

Paper tiger

A paper tiger is a person, country, institution, etc, that looks powerful, but is actually weak.

Par for the course

If something is par for the course, it is what you expected it would be. If it is above par, it is better, and if it is below par, it is worse.

Parrot fashion

If you learn something parrot fashion, you learn it word for word. A parrot is a bird from South America that can talk.

Part and parcel

If something is part and parcel of your job, say, it is an essential and unavoidable part that has to be accepted.

Pass muster

If something passes muster, it meets the required standard.

Pass the buck

If you pass the buck, you avoid taking responsibility by saying that someone else is responsible.

Pass the hat

If you pass the hat, you ask a people  in a group to give money.

Pass the time of day

If you pass the time of day with somebody, you stop and say hello, enquire how they are and other such acts of social politeness.

Pastoral care

This is used in education to describe the aspect of care offered to pupils that cover things besides learning.

Patience of Job

If something requires the patience of Job, it requires great patience.

Pay on the nail

If you pay on the nail, you pay promptly in cash.

Pay the piper

When you pay the piper, you have to accept the consequences of something that you have done wrong or badly.

Pay through the nose

If you pay through the nose for something, you pay a very high price for it.

Pay your dues

If you have paid your dues, you have had your own struggles and earned your place or position.

Peanut gallery

An audience that interrupts, boos or heckles a performer, speaker, etc, is a peanut gallery.

Pecking order

The pecking order is the order of importance or rank.

Peeping Tom

A peeping Tom is someone who tries to look through other people’s windows without being seen in order to spy on people in their homes.

Pen is mightier than the sword

The idiom ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ means that words and communication are more powerful than wars and fighting.

Penny ante

(USA) Something that is very unimportant is penny ante.

Penny pincher

A penny pincher is a mean person or who is very frugal.

Penny wise, pound foolish

Someone who is penny wise, pound foolish can be very careful or mean with small amounts of money, yet wasteful and extravagant with large sums.

People who live in glass houses should not throw stones

People should not criticize other people for faults that they have themselves.

Pep talk

When someone gives you a pep talk it is to build you up to help you accomplish something. In sports a coach might give a player a pep talk before the game to bolster his confidence. At work the boss might give you a pep talk to get you to do a better job.

Perfidious Albion

England is known to some as perfidious Albion, implying that it is not trustworthy in its dealings with foreigners.

Perish the thought

Perish the thought is an expression meaning that you really hope something will not happen.

Pet peeve

A pet peeve is something that irritates an individual greatly.

Photo finish

A photo finish is when two contestants (usually in a race) finish at almost exactly the same time, making it difficult to determine the winner. (The saying stems from the practice of taking a photograph when the winners cross the finish line to determine who was ahead at the time.)

Pick up the tab

A person who pays for everyone picks up the tab.

Pick-up game

(USA) A pick-up game is something unplanned where people respond to events as they happen.

Picture perfect

When something is exactly as it should be it is said to be picture perfect.

Pie in the sky

If an idea or scheme is pie in the sky, it is utterly impractical.

Piece of cake

If something is a piece of cake, it is really easy.

Pieces of the same cake

Pieces of the same cake are things that have the same characteristics or qualities.

Pig in a poke

If someone buys a pig in a poke, they buy something without checking the condition it was in, usually finding out later that it was defective.

Pigs might fly

If you think something will never happen or succeed, you can say that ‘pigs might fly’ (or ‘pigs can fly’ and ‘pigs will fly’- the idiom is used in many forms)

Pin down with a label

If you pin someone down with a label, you characterise them, often meant negatively as the label is restrictive.

Pin money

(UK) If you work for pin money, you work not because you need to but because it gives you money for extra little luxuries and treats.

Pinch of salt

If what someone says should be taken with a pinch of salt, then they exaggerate and distort things, so what they say shouldn’t be believed unquestioningly. (‘with a grain of salt’ is an alternative.)

Pink pound

(UK) In the UK, the pink pound is an idiom for the economic power of gay people.

Pink slip

If someone receives a pink slip, they receive a letter telling them they have lost their job.

Pipe dream

A pipe dream is an unrealistic, impractical idea or scheme.

Piping hot

If food is piping hot, it is very hot indeed.

Place in the sun

If you have your place in the sun, you find wealth, happiness or whatever you are looking for in life.

Plain as a pikestaff

(UK) If something is as plain as a pikestaff, it is very clear.

Plain as the nose on your face

If something is as plain as the nose on your face, it is very clear and obvious.

Plain Jane

A plain Jane is a woman who isn’t particularly attractive.

Plain sailing

If something is relatively easy and there are no problems doing it, it is plain sailing.

Plan B

Plan  is an alternate or fall-back position or method when the initial attempt or plan goes wrong.

Plastic smile

When someone is wearing a plastic smile, they are appear to be happier with a situation or events than they actually are. This is actually a description of the forced smile you might see in many photographs.

Play by ear

If you play by ear, you deal with something in an impromptu manner, without guidelines or rules. It refers to playing music without using written notation.

Play fast and loose

If people play fast and loose, they behave in an irresponsible way and don’t respect rules, etc.

Play for keeps

If you are playing for keeps, you take things very seriously and the outcome is very important to you; it is not a mere game.

Play for time

If you play for time, you delay something because because you are not ready or need more time to thing about it.  Eg. I knew I had to play for time until the police arrived.

Play hard to get

If someone plays hard to get, they pretend not to be interewsted or attracted by someone, usually to make the other person increase their efforts.

Play hardball

If someone plays hardball, they are very aggressive in trying to achieve their aim.

Play havoc

Playing havoc with something is creating disorder and confusion; computer viruses can play havoc with your programs.

Play hooky

If people play hooky, they don’t attend school when they should and don’t have a valid reason for their absence.

Play into someone’s hands

If you play into someone’s hands, you do what they were expecting you to do and take advantage of this.

Play it by ear

If you play it by ear, you don’t have a plan of action, but decide what to do as events take shape.

Play out of your skin

If someone plays out of their skin, they give an outstanding performance.

Play possum

To pretend to be dead or sleeping. His younger sister jumped on him because she knew he was just playing possum.

Play second fiddle

If you play second fiddle, you take a subordinate role behind someone more important.

Play the field

Someone who plays the field has sexual relationships with many people.

Play the fool

If someone plays the fool, they behave in a silly way to make people laugh. (‘Act the fool’ is and alternative form.)

Play with fire

If people take foolish risks, they are playing with fire.

Playing to the gallery

If someone plays to the gallery, they say or do things that will make them popular at the expense of more important issues.

Please revert

(India) Please respond to me if the solution provided is incorrect or insufficient.

Pleased as punch

When someone is pleased as punch, they are very satisfied about something

Poacher turned gamekeeper

Someone who gets a legitimate job which is the opposite of their previous one. E.G a computer hacker who then helps to catch other hackers or an ex-bank robber who then advises banks on security.

Poetry in motion

Something that is poetry in motion is beautiful to watch.

Point the finger

When you point the finger at someone, you are accusing and blaming them for something.


Pointy-heads are supposed intellectuals or experts, but who don’t really know that much.

Poison pill

A poison pill is a strategy designed to prevent a company from being take over.

Poisoned chalice

If someone is given a poisoned chalice, they are given a job or task which appears attractive but is actually doomed to failure or beset with problems that will damage their reputation or harm them.

Poker face

Someone with a poker face doesn’t show any emotion or reaction so that people don’t know what they are feeling.

Polish the apples

(USA) Someone who polishes the apples with someone, tries to get into that person’s favor.

Polishing peanuts

To work very hard at something for little or no return. In other words, wasting time on work which will not yield reasonable value.

Politically correct

Things or people that are politically correct use language that will not cause offence.

Poor as a church mouse

If soemone is as poor as a church mouse, they are very poor indeed.

Pop the question

When someone pops the question, they ask someone to marry them.

Pop your clogs

When someone pops their clogs, they die.

Pork barrel

Pork barrel politics involves investing money in an area to get political support rather than using the money for the common good.

Pot calling the kettle black

If someone hypocritically criticises a person for something that they themselves do, then it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.


If you take pot-luck, you take whatever happens to be available at the time.

Pound of flesh

If someone wants their pound of flesh, the force someone to pay or give back something owed, even though they don’t need it and it will cause the other person a lot of difficulty.

Pour oil on troubled waters

If someone pours oil on troubled waters, they try to calm things down.

Powder your nose

If somebody goes to powder your nose, it is a euphemism for going to the lavatory (toilet).

Powers that be

The powers that be are the people who are in charge of something.

Practical joke

A practical joke is a trick played on someone that is meant to be funny for people watching, though normally embarrassing for the person being tricked.

Practise what you preach

If you practise what you preach, you do what you say other people should do.(In American English, the verb is ‘practice’)

Preaching to the choir

If someone preaches to the choir, they talking about a subject or issue with which their audience already agrees. (‘Preaching to the converted’ is an alternative form.)

Presence of mind

If someone behaves calmly and rationally in difficult circumstances, they show presence of mind.

Press the flesh

When people, especially politicians, press the flesh, they meet members of the public and shake their hands, usually when trying to get support.

Pressed for time

If you are pressed for time, you are in a hurry or working against a very tight schedule.

Prick up your ears

If you prick up your ears, you listen very carefully.  (‘Pick up your ears’ is also used.)

Prim and proper

Someone who is prim and proper always behaves in the correct way and never breaks the rules of etiquette.

Primrose path

The primrose path is an easy and pleasurable lifestyle, but one that ends in unpleasantness and problems.

Prince charming

A prince charming is the perfect man in a woman’s life.

Problem is thirty

If a problem is 30, the problem is the person who sits 30 cm from the computer screen. It is used to describe people that lack technical knowledge and can be used when you insult someone who’s having computer problems.

Proclaim it from the rooftops

If something is proclaimed from the rooftops, it is made as widely known and as public as possible.

Prodigal son

A prodigal son is a young man who wastes a lot on money on a lavish lifestyle. If the prodigal son returns, they return to a better way of living.

Proof of the pudding is in the eating

This means that something can only be judged when it is tested or by its results. (It is often shortened to ‘Proof of the pudding’.)

Pros and cons

Pros and cons are arguments for or against a particular issue. Pros are arguments which aim to promote the issue, while cons suggest points against it. The term has been in use since the 16th century and is a shortening of a Latin phrase, pro et contra, which means “for and against.” Considering the pros and cons of an issue is a very useful way to weigh the issue thoughtfully and reach an informed decision.

Proud as a peacock

Someone who is as proud as a peacock is excessively proud.

Pull a rabbit out of your hat

If you pull a rabbit out of a hat, you do something that no one was expecting.

Pull in the reins

When you pull in the reins, you slow down or stop something that has been a bit out of control.

Pull no punches

If you pull no punches, you hold nothing back.

Pull numbers out of your ass

(USA) If sopmeone pulls numbers out of their ass, they give unreliable or unsubstantiated figures to back their argument.

Pull out all the stops

If you pull out all the stops, you do everything you possibly can to achieve the result you want.

Pull out of the fire

(USA) If you pull something out of the fire, you save or rescue it.

Pull rank

A person of higher position or in authority pulls rank, he or she exercises his/her authority, generally ending any discussion and ignoring other people’s views.

Pull someone’s leg

If you pull someone’s leg, you tease them, but not maliciously.

Pull strings

If you pull strings, you use contacts you have got to help you get what you want.

Pull the fat from the fire

If you pull the fat from the fire, you help someone in a difficult situation.

Pull the other one, it’s got brass bells on

This idiom is way of telling somebody that you don’t believe them. The word ‘brass’ is optional.

Pull the trigger

The person who pulls the trigger is the one who does the action that closes or finishes something.

Pull the wool over someone’s eyes

If you pull the wool over someone’s eyes, you deceive or cheat them.

Pull up your socks

If you aren’t satisfied with someone and want them to do better, you can tell them to pull up their socks.

Pull your chain

(USA) If someone pulls your chain, they take advantage of you in an unfair way or do something to annoy you.

Pull your finger out!

(UK) If someone tells you to do this, they want you to hurry up. (‘Get your finger out’ is also used.)

Pull your punches

If you pull your punches, you do not use all the power or authority at your disposal.

Pull your weight

If someone is not pulling their weight, they aren’t making enough effort, especially in group work.

Pull yourself up by your bootstraps

If you pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you make the effort to improve things for yourself.

Punching bag

A punching bag (or punch bag) is a person who gets a lot of unfair criticism.

Pup’s chance

A pup’s chance is no chance.

Puppy love

Puppy love is love between two very young people.

Purple patch

A purple patch is a period of time when someone or something is successful and doing well.

Push comes to shove

If or when push comes to shove, the situation has become some bad that you are forced to do something: If push comes to shove, we’ll just have to use our savings.

Push the envelope

This means to go to the limits, to do something to the maximum possible.

Pushing up the daisies

If someone is said to be pushing up the daisies, they are dead.

Put a bug in your ear

If you put a bug in someone’s ear, you give him or her a reminder or suggestion relating to a future event.

Put a cork in it!

This is a way of telling someone to be quiet.

Put a sock in it

If someone tells you to put a sock in it, they are telling you to shut up.

Put all your eggs in one basket

If you put all your eggs in one basket, you risk everything on a single opportunity which, like eggs breaking, could go wrong.

Put it on the cuff

If you put something on the cuff, you will take it now and pay for it later.

Put lipstick on a pig

If people put lipstick on a pig, they make superficial or cosmetic changes, hoping that it will make the product more attractive.

Put more green into something

(USA) To put more green into something is to spend more or to increase investment in it.

Put on airs

If someone puts on airs, they pretend to be grander and more important than they really are.

Put or get someone’s back up

If you put or get someone’s back up, you annoy them.

Put some dirt on it

This means that when you get hurt, you should rub it off or shake it off and you’ll be ok.

Put some mustard on it!

(USA) I think its used to encourage someone to throw a ball like a baseball hard or fast.

Put somebody’s nose out of joint

If you put someone’s nose out of joint, you irritate them or make them angry with you.

Put someone on a pedestal

If you put someone on a pedestal, you admire them greatly, idolise them.

Put someone out to pasture

If someone is put out to pasture, they are forced to resign or give up some responsibilities.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it

This is used as an unsympathetic way of telling someone to accept what you have just said.

Put the carriage before the horse

If you put the carriage before the horse, you try to do things in the wrong order.

Put the kybosh on

To put an end to something.

Put the pedal to the metal

If you put the pedal to the metal, you go faster.

Put to the sword

If someone is put to the sword, he or she is killed or executed.

Put two and two together

If someone puts two and two together, they reach a correct conclusion from the evidence.

Put up or shut up

‘Put up or shut up’ means you do something you are talking about or not to talk about it any more.

Put you in mind

If something suggests something to you, it puts you in mind of that thing.

Put you in the picture

If you put someone in the picture, you tell them the information they need to know about something.

Put your best foot forward

If you ut your best foot forward, you try your best to do something.

Put your cards on the table

If you put your cards on the table, you make your thoughts or ideas perfectly clear.

Put your foot down

When someone puts their foot down, they make a firm stand and establish their authority on an issue.

Put your foot in it

If you put your foot in it, you do or say something embarrassing and tactless or get yourself into trouble.

Put your foot in your mouth

If you put your foot in your mouth, you say something stupid or embarrassing.

Put your hand on your heart

If you can out your hand on your heart, then you can say something knowing it to be true.

Put your heads together

If people put their head together, they exchange ideas about something.

Put your money where your mouth is

If someone puts their money where their mouth is, they back up their words with action.

Put your shoulder to the wheel

When you put your shoulder to the wheel, you contribute to an effort.

Put your thumb on the scales

If you put your thumb on the scales, you try to influence the result of something in your favour.

Put yourself in someone’s shoes

If you put yourself in someone’s shoes, you imagine what it is like to be in their position.

Putting the cart before the horse

When you put the cart before the horse, you are doing something the wrong way round.

Pyrrhic victory

A Pyrrhic victory is one that causes the victor to suffer so much to achieve it that it isn’t worth winning.

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