~ S ~

Sacred cow

Something that is a sacred cow is held in such respect that it cannot be criticised or attacked.

Safe and sound

If you arrive safe and sound, then nothing has harmed you on your way.

Safe as houses

Something that is as safe as houses is very secure or certain.

Safe bet

A proposition that is a safe bet doesn’t have any risks attached.

Safe pair of hands

A person who can be trusted to do something without causing any trouble is a safe pair of hands.

Safety in numbers

If a lot of people do something risky at the same time, the risk is reduced because there is safety in numbers.

Saigon moment

(USA) A Saigon moment is when people realise that something has gone wrong and that they will lose or fail.

Sail close to the wind

If you sail close to the wind, you take risks to do something, going close to the limit of what is allowed or acceptable.

Sail under false colours

Someone who sails under false colours (colors) is hypocritical or pretends to be something they aren’t in order to deceive people.

Salad days

Your salad days are an especially happy period of your life.

Salt in a wound

If you rub salt in a wound, you make someone feel bad about something that is already a painful experience. ‘Pour salt on a wound’ is an alternative form of the idiom.

Salt of the earth

People who are salt of the earth are decent, dependable and unpretentious.

Salty dog

A salty dog is an experienced sailor.

Same old, same old

When nothing changes, it’s the same old, same old.

Save face

If someone saves face, they manage to protect their reputation.

Save someone’s bacon

If something saves your bacon, it saves your life or rescues you from a desperate situation. People can also save your bacon.

Save your skin

If someone saves their skin, they manage to avoid getting into serious trouble.

Saved by the bell

If you are saved by the bell, you are rescued from a danger or a tricky situation just in time.

Saving grace

If someone has some character defects, but has a characteristic that compensate for their failings and shortcomings, this is their saving grace.

Say uncle

(USA) If you say uncle, you admit defeat. (‘Cry uncle’ is an alternative form.)

Say when

People say this when pouring a drink as a way of telling you to tell them when there’s enough in your glass.


If you do something on someone else’s say-so, you do it on the authority, advice or recommendation.

Saying is one thing; doing is another

It’s harder to do something than it is to say that you will do it.

Scales fall from your eyes

When the scales fall from your eyes, you suddenly realise the truth about something.

Scare the daylights out of someone

If you scare the daylights out of someone, you terrify them. (This can be made even stronger by saying ‘the living daylights’.)

Scarlet woman

This idiom is used as a pejorative term for a sexually promiscuous woman, especially an adulteress.

Scattered to the four winds

If something’s scattered to the four winds, it goes out in all directions.

Scent blood

If you can scent blood, you feel that a rival is having difficulties and you are going to beat them.

Schoolyard pick

When people take it in turns to choose a member of a team, it is a schoolyard pick.

Scot free

If someone escapes scot free, they avoid payment or punishment. ‘Scot’ is an old word for a tax, so it originally referred to avoiding taxes, though now has a wider sense of not being punished for someone that you have done.

Scotch Mist

The phrase ‘Scotch mist’ is used humorously to refer to something that is hard to find or doesn’t exist – something imagined.

Scraping the barrel

When all the best people, things or ideas and so on are used up and people try to make do with what they have left, they are scraping the barrel.

Scream blue murder

If someone shouts very loudly in anger, or fear, they scream blue murder.

Screw loose

If someone has a screw loose, they are crazy.

Screwed if you do, screwed if you don’t

This means that no matter what you decide or do in a situation, there will be negative consequences.

Sea legs

If you are getting your sea legs, it takes you a while to get used to something new.

Seamy side

The seamy side of something is the unpleasant or sordid aspect it has.

Searching question

A searching question goes straight to the heart of the subject matter, possibly requiring an answer with a degree of honesty that the other person finds uncomfortable.

Second thoughts

If some has second thoughts, they start to think that an idea, etc, is not as good as it sounded at first and are starting to have doubts.

Second wind

If you overcome tiredness and find new energy and enthusiasm, you have second wind.

See eye to eye

If people see eye to eye, they agree about everything.

See red

If someone sees red, they become very angry about something.

See the elephant

If you see the elephant, you experience much more than you wish to; it is often used when a soldier goes into a warzone for the first time.

See the light

When someone sees the light, they realise the truth.

See which way the cat jumps

(AU) If you see which way the cat jumps, you postpone making a decision or acting until you have seen how things are developing.

See you anon

(UK) If somebody says this when leaving, they expect to see you again soon.

See you later

A casual way of saying to friends I’ll see you again, sometime, (without a definite date or time having been set) – this is often abbreviated to ‘Later’ or ‘Laters’ as an alternative way of saying goodbye.

See you on the big drum

A good night phrase to children.

Seed money

Seed money is money that is used to start a small business.

Seeing is believing

This idiom means that people can only really believe what they experience personally.

Seen better days

If something’s seen better days, it has aged badly and visibly compared to when it was new. The phrase can also be used to describe people.

Sell down the river

If you sell someone down the river, you betray their trust.

Sell like hot cakes

If a product is selling very well, it is selling like hot cakes.

Sell like hotcakes

If something is selling like hotcakes, it is very popular and selling very well.

Sell your birthright for a mess of pottage

If a person sells their birthright for a mess of pottage, they accept some trivial financial or other gain, but lose something much more important. ‘Sell your soul for a mess of pottage’ is an alternative form.

Sell your soul

If someone sells their soul, their betray the most precious beliefs.

Send someone packing

If you send someone packing, you send them away, normally when they want something from you.

Send someone to Coventry

(UK) If you send someone to Coventry, you refuse to talk to them or co-operate with them.

Separate the sheep from the goats

If you separate the sheep from the goats, you sort out the good from the bad.

Separate the wheat from the chaff

When you separate the wheat from the chaff, you select what is useful or valuable and reject what is useless or worthless.

Serve time

When someone is serving time, they are in prison.

Serve your country

When someone is serving their country, they have enrolled in the military.

Set in stone

If something is set in stone, it cannot be changed or altered.

Set the Thames on fire

If you do something remarkable, you set the Thames on fire, though this expression is used in the negative; someone who is dull or undistiguished will never set the Thames on fire.

Set the wheels in motion

When you set the wheels in motion, you get something started.

Set your sights on

If you set your sights on someone or something, it is your ambition to beat them or to achieve that goal.

Settled on your lees

This is an old biblical idiom but still used. It refers to the lees (dregs, sediments) of wine or other liquids that settle in the bottom of the containing vessel if it is not disturbed. Hence, the idiom refers to someone or something that is at ease, not disturbed, or worried. Sometimes this also has reference to a false assurance.

Seven sheets to the wind

If someone is seven sheets to the wind, they are very drunk.

Seventh heaven

If you are in seventh heaven, you are extremely happy.

Shades of meaning

Shades of meaning is a phrase used to describe the small, subtle differences in meaning between similar words or phrases; ‘kid’ and ‘youth’ both refer to young people, but carry differing views and ideas about young people.

Shaggy dog story

A shaggy dog story is a joke which is a long story with a silly end.

Shake a leg

If you shake a leg, you are out of bed and active.  It can be used to tell someone to hurry up.

Shanks’s pony

(UK) If you go somewhere by Shanks’s pony, you walk there.

Shape up or ship out

If someone has to shape up or ship out, they have to improve or leave their job, organisation, etc.

Sharp as a tack

(USA) If someone is as sharp as a tack, they are very clever indeed.

Sharp cookie

Someone who isn’t easily deceived or fooled is a sharp cookie.

Sharpen your pencil

(USA) If someone says this when negotiating, they want the other person to make a better offer, a lower price.

She’ll be apples

(AU) A very popular old Australian saying meaning everything will be all right, often used when there is some doubt.

Shed light

If you shed light on something, you make it clearer and easier to understand.

Shifting sands

If the sands are shifting, circumstances are changing.


If people shilly-shally, they can’t make up their minds about something and put off the decision.

Ship came in

If your ship has come in, something very good has happened to you.

Shipshape and Bristol fashion

If things are shipshape and Bristol fashion, they are in perfect working order.

Shoe is on the other foot

If the shoe is on the other foot, someone is experiencing what they used to make others experience, normally negative things.


If you do something on a shoestring, you try to spend the absolute minimum amount of money possible on it.

Shoot down in flames

If someone demolishes your argument, it (and you) have been shot down in flames.

Shoot from the hip

Someone who shoots from the hip talks very directly or insensitively without thinking beforehand.

Shoot the breeze

When you shoot the breeze, you chat in a relaxed way.

Shoot your wad

When you have shot your wad, you have expended everything and have no more to say or do about a matter.

Shoot yourself in the foot

If you shoot yourself in the foot, you do something that damages your ambition, career, etc.

Shooting fish in a barrel

If something is like shooting fish in a barrel, it is so easy that success is guaranteed.

Shop floor

‘Shop floor’ refers to the part of an organisation where the work is actually performed rather than just managed.

Short end of the stick

If someone gets the short end of the stick, they are unfairly treated or don’t get what they deserve.

Short horse soon curried

A convenient and superficial explanation that is normally unconvincing is a short horse soon curried.

Short shrift

If somebody gives you short shrift, they treat you rudely and brusquely, showing no interest or sympathy.


If you are short-changed, someone cheats you of money or doesn’t give you full value for something.

Shot across the bow

A shot across the bow is a warning to tell someone to stop doing something or face very serious consequences.

Shot in the dark

If you have a shot in the dark at something, you try something where you have little hope of success.

Shotgun marriage

A shotgun marriage, or shotgun wedding, is one that is forced because of pregnancy. It is also used idiomatically for a compromise, agreement or arrangement that is forced upon groups or people by necessity.

Show me the money

When people say this, they either want to know how much they will be paid for something or want to see evidence that something is valuable or worth paying for.

Show someone a clean pair of heels

If you show someone a clean pair of heels, you run faster than them when they are chasing you.

Show someone the ropes

If you show someone the ropes, you explain to someone new how things work and how to do a job.

Show your true colors

To show your true colors is to reveal yourself as you really are.

Shrinking violet

A shrinking violet is a shy person who doesn’t express their views and opinions.

Sick and tired

If you are sick and tired of something, it has been going on for a long time and you can no longer tolerate it.

Sick as a dog

If somebody’s as sick as a dog, they throw up (=vomit) violently.

Sick as a parrot

If someone’s sick as a parrot about something, they are unhappy, disappointed or depressed about it.

Sick to death

If you are sick to death of something, you have been exposed to so much of it that you cannot take any more.

Sight for sore eyes

Someone or something that is a sight for sore eyes is a pleasure to see.

Sight to behold

If something is a sight to behold, it means that seeing it is in some way special, either spectacularly beautiful or, equally, incredibly ugly or revolting, etc.

Signed, sealed and delivered

If something’s signed, sealed and delivered, it has been done correctly, following all the necessary procedures.

Silence is golden

It is often better to say nothing than to talk, so silence is golden.

Silly season

The silly season is midsummer when Parliament is closed and nothing much is happening that is newsworthy, which reduces the press to reporting trivial and stupid stories.

Silver bullet

A silver bullet is a complete solution to a large problem, a solution that seems magical.

Silver screen

The silver screen is the cinema.

Silver surfer

A silver surfer is an elderly person who uses the internet.

Since time immemorial

If something has happened since time immemorial, it’s been going on for such a long time that nobody can remember a time without it.

Sing for your supper

If you have to sing for your supper, you have to work to get the pay or reward you need or want.

Sing from the same hymn sheet

If people are singing from the same hymn sheet, they are expressing the same opinions in public.

Sing like a canary

If someone sings like a canary, they tell everything they know about a crime or wrongdoing to the police or authorities.

Sink or swim

Of you are left to sink or swim, no one gives you any help and it’s up to you whether you fail or succeed.

Sit on the fence

If someone sits on the fence, they try not to support either side in a dispute.

Sit pretty

Someone who’s sitting pretty is in a very advantageous situation.

Sit well with

If something doesn’t sit well with you, it doesn’t please you or is not acceptable to you.

Sitting duck

A sitting duck is something or someone that is easy to criticise or target.

Six feet under

If someone is six feet under, they are dead.

Six of one and half-a-dozen of the other

This is an idiom used when there is little or no difference between two options.

Sixes and sevens

If something is all at sixes and sevens, then there is a lot of disagreement and confusion about what should be done.


The sixty-four-thousand-dollar-question is the most important question that can be asked about something.

Skate on thin ice

If someone is skating on thin ice, they are taking a big risk.

Skeleton in the closet

If someone has a skeleton in the closet, they have a dark, shameful secret in their past that they want to remain secret.

Skin and bones

If someone is skin and bones, they are very underweight and look bad.

Skin in the game

A person who has skin in the game has invested in the company they are running.

Skin someone alive

If someone skins you alive, they admonish and punish you hard.


An unauthorised, or hidden program or activity, often research-oriented, and out of the bureaucratic chain of command is known as a ‘skunkworks’.

Sky is the limit

When people say that the sky is the limit, they think that there are no limits to the possibilities something could have.

Slap leather

(USA) This is used as an instruction to tell people when to draw their guns.

Slap on the wrist

If someone gets a slap on the wrist, they get a very minor punishment when they could have been punished more severely.

Sleep like a baby

If you sleep very well, you sleep like a baby.

Sleep like a log

If you sleep like a log, you sleep very soundly.

Sleep well- don’t let the bedbugs bite

This is a way of wishing someone a good night’s sleep.

Sleight of hand

Sleight of hand is the ability to use your hands in a clever way, like a magician performing tricks you can’t see.

Slim chance

A slim chance is a very small chance.

Sling your hook

This is used as a way of telling someone to leave or go away.

Slip of the tongue

If you say something accidentally, it is a slip of the tongue.

Slip through one’s fingers

If something slips through one’s fingers it escapes or is lost through carelessness.

Slippery customer

A person from whom it is difficult to get anything definite or fixed is a slippery customer.

Slippery slope

A slippery slope is where a measure would lead to further worse measures.

Slough of despond

If someone is very depressed or in despair, they’re in a slough of despond.

Slow and steady wins the race

This expression means that consistency, although progress may be slow, will eventually be more beneficial than being hasty or careless just to get something done.

Slow boat to China

This idiom is used to describe something that is very slow and takes a long time.

Slow but sure

If something or someone is slow but sure, they may take their time to do something, but they are reliable.

Slower than molasses going uphill in January

(USA) To move extremely slowly. Molasses drips slowly anyway but add January cold and gravity, dripping uphill would be an impossibility, thereby making the molasses move very slowly indeed!

Slowly, slowly catchy monkey

This means that eventually you will achieve your goal.

Sly as a fox

Someone who is as sly as a fox is cunning and experienced and can get what they want, often in an underhand way.

Smack in the face

If something is a smack in the face, it is a shock, usually one that impedes progress.

Small beer

If something is small beer, it’s unimportant.

Small dog, tall weeds

This idiom is used to describe someone the speaker does not believe has the ability or resources to handle a task or job.

Small fry

If someone is small fry, they are unimportant. The term is often used when the police arrest the less important criminals, but are unable to catch the leaders and masterminds.

Small potatoes

Someone or something that is unimportant is small potatoes.


If a person or a thing is called ‘small-time’ it means they’re inconsequential, not worth much, don’t play in the ‘big leagues’, as in ‘a small-time operator’.

Smart Alec

A smart Alec is a conceited person who likes to show off how clever and knowledgeable they are.

Smart as a whip

A person who is smart as a whip is very clever.

Smarty pants

A smarty pants is someone who displays the intelligence in an annoying way.

Smell a rat

If you smell a rat, you know instinctively that something is wrong or that someone is lying to you.

Smoke and mirrors

An attempt to conceal something is smoke and mirrors.

Smoke like a chimney

Someone who smokes very heavily smokes like a chimney.

Smoke the peace pipe

If people smoke the peace pipe, they stop arguing and fighting.

Smokestack industry

Heavy industries like iron and steel production, especially if they produce a lot of pollution, are smokestack industries.

Smoking gun

A smoking gun is definitive proof of someone’s guilt.

Smooth as a baby’s bottom

If something is smooth as a baby’s bottom, it has a regular, flat surface.

Smooth sailing

If something is smooth sailing, then you can progress without difficulty.  (‘Plain sailing’ is also used.)

Snake in the grass

Someone who is a snake in the grass betrays you even though you have trusted them.

Snake oil

Advice or medicine which is of no use.

Snake oil salesperson

A person who promotes something that doesn’t work, is selling snake oil.

Snug as a bug in a rug

If you’re as snug as a bug in a rug, you are feeling very comfortable indeed.

So it goes

This idiom is used to be fatalistic and accepting when something goes wrong.

So on and so forth

And so on and so forth mean the same as etcetera (etc.).

Sod’s law

Sod’s law states that if something can go wrong then it will.

Soft soap someone

If you soft soap someone, you flatter them.

Some other time

If somebody says they’ll do something some other time, they mean at some indefinite time in the future, possibly never, but they certainly don’t want to feel obliged to fix a specific time or date.

Something nasty in the woodshed

Something nasty in the woodshed means that someone as a dark secret or an unpleasant experience in their past.

Sound as a bell

If something or someone is as sound as a bell, they are very healthy or in very good condition.

Sound as a pound

(UK) if something is as sound as a pound, it is very good or reliable.

Sour grapes

When someone says something critical or negative because they are jealous, it is a case of sour grapes.

Sow the seeds

When people sow the seeds, they start something that will have a much greater impact in the future.

Sow your wild oats

If a young man sows his wild oats, he has a period of his life when he does a lot of exciting things and has a lot of sexual relationships. for e.g. He’d spent his twenties sowing his wild oats but felt that it was time to settle down.

Spanish practices

Unauthorized working methods that benefit those who follow them are Spanish practices.

Spanner in the works

(UK) If someone puts or throws a spanner in the works, they ruin a plan. In American English, ‘wrench’ is used instead of ‘spanner’.

Spare the rod and spoil the child

This means that if you don’t discipline children, they will become spoilt.

Speak of the devil!

If you are talking about someone and they happen to walk in, you can use this idiom as a way of letting them know you were talking about them.

Speak softly and carry a big stick

If you speak softly and carry a big stick, you make your case quietly but can back it up forcefully if necessary.

Speak to the organ grinder not the monkey

Talk to the boss not the subordinate

Speak volumes

If something speaks volumes, it tells us a lot about the real nature of something or someone,even though it may only be a small detail.

Speak with a forked tongue

To say one thing and mean another, to lie, to be two-faced

Spend a penny

(UK) This is a euphemistic idiom meaning to go to the toilet.

Spend like a sailor

Someone who spends their money wildly spends like a sailor.

Spice of life

The spice of life is something that makes it feel worth living.

Spick and span

If a room is spick and span, it is very clean and tidy.

Spill the beans

If you spill the beans, you reveal a secret or confess to something.

Spin a yarn

If someone spins a yarn, they tell a story, usually a long or fanciful one.

Spinning a line

When someone spins you a line, they are trying to deceive you by lying.

Spinning a yarn

When someone spins you a yarn, they are trying to deceive you by lying.

Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak

If the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, someone lacks the willpower to change things they do because they derive too much pleasure from them.

Spirit of the law

The spirit of the law is the idea or ideas that the people who made the law wanted to have effect.

Spit blood

If someone is spitting blood, they are absolutely furious.

Spit it out

People say this when someone has something to say but is too embarrassed, shy, etc, to say it.

Spit the dummy

Reference to an infant spitting out their dummy (or pacifier) in order to cry. ‘To spit the dummy’ is to give up.

Spitting image

If a person is the spitting image of somebody, they look exactly alike.(‘Spit and image’ is also used and some suggest it is a hasty pronunciation of “spirit & image”, to suggest that someone completely resembles someone else. Example: He’s the spirit & image of his grandfather.) 

Split hairs

If people split hairs, they concentrate on tiny and unimportant details to find fault with something.

Split the blanket

If people split the blanket, it means they get a divorce or end their relationship.

Spoil the ship for a ha’pworth of tar

(UK) If someone spoils the ship for a ha’pworth (halfpenny’s worth) of tar, they spoil something completely by trying to make a small economy.

Spot on

If something is spot on, it is exactly right.

Sprat to catch a mackerel

If you use a sprat to catch a mackerel, you make a small expenditure or take a small risk in the hope of a much greater gain.

Spring to mind

If something springs to mind, it appears suddenly and unexpectedly in your thoughts.

Spur of the moment

If you do something on the spur of the moment, you do it because you felt like it at that time, without any planning or preparation.

Sputnik moment

A Sputnik moment is a point where people realise that they are threatened of challenged and have to redouble their efforts to catch up. It comes from the time when the Soviet Union launched the first satellite, the Sputnik 1, and beat the USA into space.

Square meal

A square meal is a substantial or filling meal.

Square Mile

(UK) The Square Mile is the City, the financial area of London.

Square peg in a round hole

If somebody’s in a situation, organisation, etc, where they don’t fit in and feel out of place, they are a square peg in a round hole.

Square the circle

When someone is squaring the circle, they are trying to do something impossible.

Squared away

Being prepared or ready for business or tasks at hand. Having the proper knowledge, skill and equipment to handle your assignment or station. ‘He is a great addition to the squad; he is squared away.’

Squeaky clean

If something is squeaky clean, it is very clean indeed- spotless. If a person is squeaky clean, they have no criminal record and are not suspected of illegal or immoral activities.

Squeaky wheel gets the grease

(USA) When people say that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, they mean that the person who complains or protests the loudest attracts attention and service.

Squeeze blood out of a turnip

(USA) When people say that you can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip, it means that you cannot get something from a person, especially money, that they don’t have.

Stalking horse

A stalking horse is a strategy or something used to conceal your intentions.  It is often used where someone put themselves forwards as a candidate to divide opponents or to hide the real candidate.

Stand in good stead

If something will stand you in good stead, it will probably be advantageous in the future.

Stars and stripes

The stars and stripes is the American flag.

Stars in your eyes

Someone who dreams of being famous has stars in their eyes.

Start from scratch

When you start something from scratch, you start at the very beginning.

State of the art

If something is state of the art, it is the most up-to-date model incorporating the latest and best technology.

Status quo

Someone who wants to preserve the status quo wants a particular situation to remain unchanged.

Steal a march

This expression indicates the stealthiness of a person over another to gain advantage of the situation. For instance, if two persons are offered some jobs which are vacant, they resolve to go together next day at an agreed time, but one of them, without telling the other, goes earlier than the other and secures the better of the two jobs, he is said to steal a march on the other person.

Steal someone’s thunder

If someone steals your thunder, they take the credit and praise for something you did.

Steer clear of

If you steer clear of something, you avoid it.

Stem the tide

If people try to stem the tide, they are trying to stop something unpleasant from getting worse, usually when they don’t succeed.

Step on it

This idiom is a way of telling someone to hurry up or to go faster.

Step on someone’s toes

If you step on someone’s toes, you upset them, especially if you do something that they should be in charge of.

Step up to the plate

If someone steps up to the plate, they take on or accept a challenge or a responsibility.

Stew in your own juices

If you leave someone to stew in their own juices, you leave them to worry about the consequences of what they have done wrong or badly.

Stick in your craw

If someone or something really annoys you, it is said to stick in your craw.

Stick out like a sore thumb

If something sticks or stands out like a sore thumb, it is clearly and obviously different from the things that are around it.

Stick to your guns

If you stick to your guns, you keep your position even though people attack or criticise you.

Stick your neck out

If you stick you neck out, you take a risk because you believe in something.


A stick-in-the-mud is someone who doesn’t like change and wants things to stay the same.

Sticking point

A sticking point is a controversial issue that blocks progress in negotiations, etc, where compromise is unlikely or impossible.

Sticky end

(UK) If someone comes to a sticky end, they die in an unpleasant way. (‘Meet a sticky end’ is also used.)

Sticky fingers

The tendency to keep (or steal) an object you touch.  Also, to steal something quickly without anyone noticing. (ex: ‘You stole that guy’s wallet? You have some sticky fingers, my friend.’)

Sticky wicket

(UK) If you are on a sticky wicket, you are in a difficult situation.

Stiff as a poker

Something or someone that is stiff as a poker is inflexible. (‘Stiff as a board’ is also used.)

Stiff upper lip

(UK) If you keep your emotions to yourself and don’t let others know how you feel when something bad happens, you keep a stiff upper lip.


A stiff-necked person is rather formal and finds it hard to relax in company.

Still in the game

If someone is still in the game, they may be having troubles competing, but they are not yet finished and may come back.

Still waters run deep

People use this idiom to imply that people who are quiet and don’t try to attract attention are often more interesting than people who do try to get attention.

Stir the blood

If something stirs your blood, it arouses feelings or passions,.

Stitch in time saves nine

A stitch in time saves nine means that if a job needs doing it is better to do it now, because it will only get worse, like a hole in clothes that requires stitching.

Stone dead

This idiom is a way of emphasizing that there were absolutely no signs of life or movement.

Stone deaf

Someone who is stone deaf is completely deaf.

Stone’s throw

If a place is a stone’s throw from where you are, it is a very short distance away.

Stool pigeon

(USA) A stool pigeon is a police informer.

Stop cold

To stop suddenly out of surprise.

Storm in a teacup

If someone exaggerates a problem or makes a small problem seem far greater than it really is, then they are making a storm in a teacup.

Straight face

If someone keeps a straight face, they remain serious and do not show emotion or amusement.

Straight from the shoulder

If someone talks straight from the shoulder, they talk honestly and plainly.

Strain every nerve

If you strain every nerve, you make a great effort to achieve something.

Strange at the best of times

To describe someone or something as really weird or unpleasant in a mild way.

Straw man

A straw man is a weak argument that is easily defeated. It can also be a person who is used as to give an illegal or inappropriate activity an appearance of respectability.

Straw poll

A straw poll is a small unofficial survey or ballot to find out what people think about an issue.

Straw that broke the camel’s back

The straw that broke the camel’s back is the problem that made you lose your temper or the problem that finally brought about the collapse of something.

Streets ahead

If people are streets ahead of their rivals, they are a long way in front.

Strike a chord

If strikes a chord, it is familiar to you, reminds you of something or is connected to you somehow.

Strike while the iron is hot

If you strike while the iron is hot you do something when things are going well for you and you have a good chance to succeed.

Stroll down memory lane

If you take a stroll down memory lane, you talk about the past or revisit places that were important to you in the past. (You can also ‘take a trip down memory lane’.)

Strong as an ox

Someone who’s exceedingly strong physically is said to be as strong as an ox.

Stubborn as a mule

Someone who will not listen to other people’s advice and won’t change their way of doing things is as stubborn as a mule.

Stuffed to the gills

If someone is stuffed to the gills, they have eaten a lot and are very full.

Succeed in the clutch

If you succeed in the clutch, you  perform at a crucial time; it is particularly used in sports for the decisive moments of the game.  The opposite is ‘fail in the clutch.’

Suck hind teat

A person who sucks hind teat is at a disadvantage or considered worse or less important that others.

Sunday driver

A Sunday driver drives very slowly and makes unexpected manoeuvres.

Sure as eggs is eggs

These means absolutely certain, and we do say ‘is’ even though it is grammatically wrong.


If something is sure-fire, it is certain to succeed. (‘Surefire’ is also used.)


A person’s swansong is their final achievement or public appearance.

Swear like a sailor

Someone who is foul-mouthed and uses bad language all the time, swears like a sailor.

Swear like a trooper

Someone who is foul-mouthed and uses bad language all the time, swears like a trooper.

Sweat blood

If you sweat blood, you make an extraordinary effort to achieve something.

Sweat like a pig

If someone is sweating like a pig, they are perspiring (sweating) a lot.

Sweep off your feet

If you are swept off your feet, you lose control emotionally when you fall in love or are really impressed.

Sweep things under the carpet

If people try to ignore unpleasant things and forget about them, they sweep them under the carpet.

Sweet as a gumdrop

This means that something or someone is very nice or pretty.

Sweet tooth

If you have a sweet tooth, you like eating food with sugar in it.

Swim against the tide

If you swim against the tide, you try to do something that is very difficult because there is a lot of opposition to you. (‘Go against the tide’ is an alternative form.)

Swim with the fishes

If someone is swimming with the fishes, they are dead, especially if they have been murdered. ‘Sleep with the fishes’ is an alternative form.

Swim with the tide

If you swim with the tide, you do the same as people around you and accept the general consensus. (‘Go with the tide’ is an alternative form.)


If things are going swimmingly, they are going very well.

Swing the lead

If you swing the lead, you pretend to be ill or do not do your share of the work.

Swinging door

This idiom refers to something or someone that can go in two conflicting or opposite directions.

Swings and roundabouts

If something’s swings and roundabouts, it has about as many disadvantages as it has advantages.

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