~ R ~

Rack and ruin

If something or someone goes to rack and ruin, they are utterly destroyed or wrecked.

Rack your brain

If you rack your brain, you think very hard when trying to remember something. (‘Rack your brains’ is an alternative.)

Ragged blue line

(USA) This term was used to signify the Union forces (who wore blue uniforms) in the American Civil war .

Rags to riches

Someone who starts life very poor and becomes rich goes from rags to riches.

Rain on your parade

If someone rains on your parade, they ruin your pleasure or your plans.

Raining cats and dogs

When it is raining cats and dogs, it is raining very heavily.

Rainy day

If you save something, especially money, for a rainy day, you save it for some possible problem or trouble in the future.

Raise Cain

(USA) If someone raises Cain, they make a big fuss publicly, causing a disturbance.

Raise eyebrows

If something raises eyebrows, it shocks or surprises people.

Rake over old coals

(UK) If you go back to old problems and try to bring them back, making trouble for someone, you are raking over old coals.

Rake someone over the coals

(USA) If you rake someone over the coals, you criticize or scold them severely.

Rank and file

The rank and file are the ordinary members of a company, organisation, etc, excluding the managers and directors.

Rat race

The rat race is the ruthless, competitive struggle for success in work, etc.

Rather you than me

Rather you than me is an expression used when someone has something unpleasant or arduous to do. It is meant in a good natured way of expressing both sympathy and having a bit of a laugh at their expense.

Raw deal

If you get a raw deal, you are treated unfairly.

Read between the lines

If you read between the lines, you find the real message in what you’re reading or hearing, a meaning that is not available from a literal interpretation of the words.

Read from the same page

When people are reading from the same page, they say the same things in public about an issue.

Read someone the riot act

If you read someone the riot act, you give them a clear warning that if they don’t stop doing something, they will be in serious trouble.

Real deal

If something is the real deal, it is genuine and good.

Real McCoy

Something that’s the real McCoy is the genuine article, not a fake.

Real plum

A real plum is a good opportunity.

Real trouper

A real trouper is someone who will fight for what they believe in and doesn’t give up easily. (People often use ‘Real trooper’ as the two words sound the same.)

Rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic

(UK) If people are rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, they are making small changes that will have no effect as the project, company, etc, is in very serious trouble.

Recharge your batteries

If you recharge your batteries, you do something to regain your energy after working hard for a long time.

Recipe for disaster

A recipe for disaster is a mixture of people and events that could only possibly result in trouble.

Red carpet

If you give someone the red-carpet treatment, you give them a special welcome to show that you think they are important. You can roll out the red carpet, too.

Red herring

If something is a distraction from the real issues, it is a red herring.

Red letter day

A red letter day is a one of good luck, when something special happens to you.

Red light district

The red light district is the area of a town or city where there is prostitution, sex shops, etc.

Red mist

If someone sees red or the red mist, they lose their temper and self-control completely.

Red rag to a bull

If something is a red rag to a bull, it is something that will inevitably make somebody angry or cross.

Red tape

This is a negative term for the official paperwork and bureaucracy that we have to deal with.

Reds under the bed

An ironic allusion to the obsession some people have that there are reds (communists) everywhere plotting violent revolution.

Reduce to ashes

If something is reduced to ashes, it is destroyed or made useless. His infidelities reduced their relationship to ashes.

Reinvent the wheel

If someone reinvents the wheel, they waste their time doing something that has already been done by other people, when they could be doing something more worthwhile.

Renaissance man

A Renaissance man is a person who is talented in a number of different areas, especially when their talents include both the sciences and the arts.

Rest is gravy

(USA) If the rest is gravy, it is easy and straightforward once you have reached that stage.

Rest on your laurels

If someone rests on their laurels, they rely on their past achievements, rather than trying to achieve things now.

Revenge is sweet

When you are happy to be proved right, then you know that revenge is sweet.

Rewrite history

If you rewrite history, you change your version of past events so as to make yourself look better than you would if the truth was told.

Rhyme or reason

If something is without rhyme or reason, it is unreasonable. (‘Beyond rhyme or reason’ is an alternative.)

Rice missionary

A rice missionary gives food to hungry people as a way of converting them to Christianity.

Rich as Croesus

Someone who is as rich as Croesus is very wealthy indeed.

Rich man’s family

A rich man’s family consists of one son and one daughter.

Ride for a fall

If sxomeone is riding for a fall, they are taking great risks that are likely to end in a disaster.

Ride high

If someone is riding high, they are very successful at the moment.

Ride roughshod

If someone rides roughshod over other people, they impose their will without caring at all for other people’s feelings.

Ride shotgun

If you ride shotgun, you protect or guard something when it is being transported.

Ride with the tide

If you ride with the tide, you accept the majority decision.

Right as rain

If things are right as rain, then everything is going well in your life.

Right out of the blocks

This means immediately; at the very beginning.  It describes a sprinter blasting out of the starting blocks at the beginning of a short distance race (e.g., 100-yard dash, 50-yard dash).

Right royal

(UK) A right royal night out would be an extremely exciting, memorable and fun one.

Right up my alley

If something is right up your alley, it suits you perfectly.

Right up your street

If something is ideal for you, it is right up your street.

Ring a bell

If something rings a bell, it reminds you of something you have heard before, though you may not be able to remember it very well. A name may ring a bell, so you know you have heard the name before, but cannot place it properly.

Ringside seat

If you have a ringside seat, you can observe something from a very close and clear position.

Rip van Winkle

Rip van Winkle is a character in a story who slept for twenty years, so if someone is a Rip van Winkle, they are behind the times and out of touch with what’s happening now.

Rise and shine

If you wake up full of energy, you rise and shine.

Rise from the ashes

If something rises from the ashes, it recovers after a serious failure.

Road to Damascus

If someone has a great and sudden change in their ideas or beliefs, then this is a road to Damascus change, after the conversion of Saint Paul to Christianity while heading to Damascus to persecute Christians.

Rob Peter to pay Paul

If you rob Peter to pay Paul, you try to solve one problem, but create another in doing so, often through short-term planning.

Rock the boat

If you rock the boat, you destabilise a situation by making trouble. It is often used as advice; ‘Don’t rock the boat’.

Rocket science

If something is not rocket science, it is not very complicated or difficult to understand. This idiom is normally used in the negative.

Roll out the red carpet

If you roll out the red carpet, you treat someone in a special way, especially when welcoming them.

Roll with the punches

If you roll with the punches, you are flexible and able to adapt to difficult circumstances.

Roll your eyes

If you roll your eyes, you show with your eyes that you don’t believe someone or aren’t interested in what they’re saying.

Rolling in money

If someone has a lot of money, more than they could possibly need, they are rolling in money.

Rolling in the aisles

If the audience watching something are laughing loudly, the show has them rolling in the aisles.

Rome was not built in a day

This idiom means that many things cannot be done instantly, and require time and patience.

Root hog or die poor

(USA) It’s a expression used in the Southern USA that means that you must look out for yourself as no one’s going to do it for you.  (It can be shortened to ‘root hog’.  A hog is a pig.)

Rooted to the spot

If someone is rooted to the spot, they canot move, either physically or they cannot think their way out of a problem.

Rose-colored glasses

If people see things through rose-colored (coloured) glasses, they see them in a more positive light than they really are.

Rose-tinted glasses

If people see things through rose-tinted glasses, they see them in a more positive light than they really are.

Rough and ready

If something is rough and ready, it has not been carefully prepared, but is fit for its purpose. If a person is rough and ready, they are not very refined or mannered.

Rough around the edges

If someone is rough around the edges, they haven’t mastered something, though they show promise.

Rough diamond

A rough diamond is a person who might be a bit rude but who is good underneath it all.

Rough edges

If something has rough edges, it is still not a finished product and not all of a uniform standard.

Rough end of the stick

To get the rough end of the stick is to be treated unfairly or to come off worse than the other party in a transaction, situation or relationship.


If something, especially something made from wood or stone, is rough-hewn, it is unfinished or unpolished.

Round the bend

If someone has gone round the bend, they have stopped being rational about something. If something drives you round the bend, it irritates you or makes you angry.

Round the houses

If you go round the houses, you do something in an inefficient way when there is a quicker, more convenient way.

Rub shoulders

If you rub shoulders with people, you meet and spend time with them, especially when they are powerful or famous.

Rub someone up the wrong way

If you annoy or irritate someone when you didn’t mean to, you rub them up the wrong way.

Rudderless ship

If an organisation, company, government, etc, is like a rudderless ship, it has no clear direction and drifts about without reaching its goals.

Rue the day

This means that the person will one day bitterly regret what they have done.

Ruffle a few feathers

If you ruffle a few feathers, you annoy some people when making changes or improvements.

Rule of thumb

Rule of thumb means approximately.

Rule the roost

If someone rules the roost they are the boss. Example:There’s no doubt who rules the roost in this house.

Run a mile

If someone “Runs a mile”, they do everything they can to avoid a situation. Example: “I was worried that he’d take one look at me and run a mile.”

Run amok

When things or people are running amok, they are wild and out of control.(‘Run amuck’ is also used.) 

Run around the bush

(USA) If you run around the bush, it means that you’re taking a long time to get to the point.

Run before you can walk

If someone tries to run before they can walk, they try to do something requiring a high level of knowledge before they have learned the basics.

Run circles around someone

If you can run circles around someone, you are smarter and intellectually quicker than they are.

Run into the sand

If something runs into the sand, it fails to achieve a result.

Run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes

This idiom is used to suggest trying out an idea to see if people accept it.

Run off your feet

If you are run off your feet, you are extremely busy and don’t have enough time to do everything.

Run out of gas

If a campaign, project, etc, runs out of gas, it loses energy and momentum, and progress slows or halts.

Run rings around someone

If you run rings around someone, you are so much better than them that they have no chance of keeping up with you.

Run something into the ground

If people run something into the ground, they treat or manage it so badly that they ruin it.

Run the gauntlet

If somebody is being criticised harshly by a lot of people, they are said to run the gauntlet.

Run the show

If someone runs the show, they like to be in control and make all the decisions.

Run to ground

If you run someone or something to ground, you pursue until you capture or find them or it.

Run your mouth off

If someone runs their mouth off, they talk too much.


If something is run-of-the-mill, there is nothing exceptional about it- it is ordinary or average.

Running on empty

If you are exhausted but keep going, you are running on empty.

Running on fumes

If someone has used all their energy on something, but must continue, they are running on fumes. It is an expression used when driving a car when the needle is on empty but still running. We say it is ‘running on fumes’.

Runs in the family

If a characteristic runs in the family, it can clearly be seen members of different generations.  A hereditary illness that is passed from one generation to the next also runs in the family.

Russian roulette

If people take a dangerous and unnecessary risk, they are playing Russian roulette.

Rusty needle

When something is described as a rusty needle, it is badly damaged but still works, or if someone very is sick or tired but still manages to do things at a fairly good level. An alternative form is “a tarnished needle”.

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