~ U ~


If a government changes its position radically on an issue, especially when they have promised not to do so, this is a U-turn.

Ugly as a stick

(USA) If someone is as ugly as a stick, they are very ugly indeed.

Ugly duckling

An ugly duckling is a child who shows little promise, but who develops later into a real talent or beauty.

Uncalled for

If someone does something bad and unnecessary without consideration for anothers feelings, what they do is uncalled for.

Uncharted waters

If you’re in uncharted waters, you are in a situation that is unfamiliar to you, that you have no experience of and don’t know what might happen. (‘Unchartered waters’ is an incorrect form that is a common mistake.)

Uncle Sam

(USA) Uncle Sam is the government of the USA.

Under a cloud

If someone is suspected of having done something wrong, they are under a cloud.

Under a flag of convenience

If a ship sails under a flag of convenience, it is registered in a country where taxes, etc, are lower than in the country it comes from, so if someone does something under a flag of convenience, they attempt to avoid regulations and taxes by a similar means.

Under false colours

If someone does something under false colours/colors, they pretend to be something they are not in order to deceive people so that they can succeed.

Under fire

If someone is being attacked and cricitised heavily, they are under fire.

Under lock and key

If something is under lock and key, it is stored very securely.

Under someone’s heel

If you are under someone’s heel, they have complete control over you.

Under the radar

If something slips under the radar, it isn’t detected or noticed.

Under the table

Bribes or illegal payments are often described as money under the table.

Under the weather

If you are feeling a bit ill, sad or lack energy, you are under the weather.

Under the wire

(USA) If a person does something under the wire, they do it at the last possible moment.

Under your belt

If you have something under your belt, you have already achieved or experienced it and it will probably be of benefit to you in the future.

Under your breath

If you say something under your breath, you whisper or say it very quietly.

Under your nose

If something happens right in front of you, especially if it is surprising or audacious, it happens under your nose.

Under your skin

If someone gets under your skin, they really annoy you.

Under your thumb

Someone who is manipulated or controlled by another person is under his or her thumb.

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown

This means that people with serious responsibilities have a heavy burden.

Unwavering loyalty

Unwavering loyalty does not question or doubt the person or issue and supports them completely.

Up a gum tree

(AU) If you’re up a gum tree, you’re in trouble or a big mess.

Up a river without a paddle

If you up a river without a paddle, you are in an unfortunate situation, unprepared and with none of the resources to remedy the matter.

Up for grabs

If something is up for grabs, it is available and whoever is first or is successful will get it.

Up in the air

If a matter is up in the air, no decision has been made and there is uncertainty about it.

Up sticks

(UK) If you up sticks, you leave somewhere, usually permanently and without warning- he upped sticks and went to work abroad.

Up the ante

If you up the ante, you increase the importance or value of something, especially where there’s an element of risk as the term comes from gambling, where it means to increase the stake (the amount of money bet).

Up the creek

If someone or something is up the creek, they are in real trouble. ‘Up the creek without a paddle’ is an alternative, and ‘up shit creek (without a paddle)’ is a ruder form.

Up the duff

(UK) If a woman is up the duff, she’s pregnant.

Up the spout

(UK) If something has gone up the spout, it has gone wrong or been ruined.

Up the stick

(UK) If a woman is up the stick, she’s pregnant.

Up the wall

If someone goes up the wall, they get very angry.

Up the wooden hill

When you go up the wooden hill, you go up the stairs to bed.

Up to scratch

If something doesn’t come up to scratch, it doesn’t meet the standard required or expected.

Up to snuff

If something isn’t up to snuff, it doesn’t meet the standard expected.

Up to speed

If you bring someone up to speed, you update them on something.

Up to the eyes

You you are up to your eyes in something, you are deeply involved or to have too much of something like work. (‘Up the neck’, ‘up to the eyeballs’ and ‘up to the ears’ are also used.)

Up to the neck

If someone’s in something up to the neck, they are very involved in it, especially when it’s something wrong.

Up to your eyes

When you’ve got too much work to do, you’re up to your eyes in it.

Up to your neck

If someone is very involved in something, they are up to their neck in it, especially if it is something bad or immoral.

Up with the lark

If you get up very early, you’re up with the lark.

Upper crust

The upper crust are the upper classes and the establishment.

Upper hand

If you have the upper hand, you have the advantage.

Upset the apple cart

If you upset the apple cart, you cause trouble and upset people.

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