Idiom Meanings (M-S): understand casual English 

Note: This list of idiom meanings (for idioms from M-S) is alphabetized by the first major word in the expression (not a, an, the, or to). The list includes a reference to the other main words of the expression, and also references to related idioms.

To jump to idioms beginning with P, Click here, and for idioms beginning with R or S, click here.

See also List of Idioms, A-F and Idiom Definitions from G-L.

Idiom Meanings: M-O

Photo of angry boss demanding that his employee be on time-- working by 8 o'clock on the dot.
  • To make ends meet is to have enough money to pay for food and other necessities. (“Larry needs a better job. Right now he hardly earns enough to make ends meet.”
  • To make money means to earn money (not to print it, which is illegal!)
  • To make trouble means to cause problems.for people.
  • To make up can be to compensate for a loss or for missed work. (“You have until Friday to make up any work you missed due to illness.") It can also mean to invent a story or give an excuse (Did you really see Nancy or are you just making that up?”), or to reconcile with someone after a quarrel. (Make-up is also a noun meaning cosmetics.)
  • On the dot refers to being right on the hour, not a few minutes before or after the hour mentioned. (“The meeting will start at 2 PM on the dot.”)
  • On the other hand means to look at things another way. The phrase is used in discussions or formal writing to suggest a different point of view. (“People need to save more money. On the other hand, if everyone saved more, consumer spending would go down and more businesses might fail.”) 
  • On time means at the appropriate time; neither early nor late. (“He’s always on time for work, or even a little early. Being punctual is important to him.”)
  • One of these days means sometime soon, without setting a definite date or making a commitment.(“One of these days we need to have lunch together and catch up on what’s going on.”)
  • Over one’s head refers to something that is unfamiliar or difficult to understand. (“This class is way over my head. The professor might as well speak to us in Greek-- I don’t understand anything he says.” Also: “Ann’s sarcasm went right over Jim’s head. He didn’t get it-- he thought she was praising him!”) 

Idioms Beginning with 'P'

  • To pass away is to die. (It’s a “gentler” way to say it.) 
  • To pass out is to give (hand) out something (usually papers) or (2nd meaning) to faint. (“I have a friend that passes out if she stands in the sun too long.”)
  • To pick on means to criticize or find fault with someone, and can involve bullying or minor physical abuse. Famous advice for bullies: “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?”)
  • To pick out means to choose or select one item from several. (“Have you picked out your prom dress yet?”)
  • To pick up is to lift something off the floor, or to put things back in their proper locations. (A mother tells her child to “pick up your toys!”) It can also mean to buy something. ("Please pick up some milk and eggs at the store on your way.") It does not mean to choose or to pull fruit or flowers off plants-- the two most common meanings for 'pick.' 
  • To put away means to put things where they belong. (“Put the groceries away as soon as you get home: meats and vegetables in the refrigerator, cereal in the cupboards, and cleaning supplies under the sink.”)
  • To put off is to postpone-- to wait until later to do something. (“Don’t put off doing your homework any longer!”)
  • To put on clothing means to get dressed. (To remove clothing is to take it offnot put it off.)
  • To put something together is to assemble it (to connect all its parts.)
  • To put up with means to tolerate an uncomfortable or annoying situation.

Idioms Beginning with R- S

Girl on the phone hearing her friend say
  • To run into is to see someone familiar in an unexpected place. It doesn’t usually involve a physical collision, although it can. (“Guess who I ran into at church? I didn’t even know Sheila was back in town!”)
  • To run out of means to use the last of something and need more. (“I can’t believe I ran out of sugar in the middle of making Christmas cookies!”) See ‘use up.'

  • To see eye to eye is to see things from the same perspective as someone else. (This is similar to “on the same page.” See Common Idioms-- link below.)
  • ’To show up is to arrive at a gathering. “Julia finally showed up— late, as usual.”
  • To stand out is to be prominent, noticeable, or outstanding.
  • To stick your (or his, her, etc.) nose into other people's business is to be too curious about other people, especially about private affairs or relationships they may not want to discuss or reveal. (It's another way of saying that someone is 'nosy.')

For idiom meanings from T on, see Idioms List, T-Z.

To see sample conversations using these and other idioms, and to practice with them, go to Idiom Examples and Idioms Worksheet.

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