5 English Idioms and Where They Come From
5 English Idioms and Where They Come From
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  • 승인 2019.05.01 20:40
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By Prof. Miwon Jo

Idioms are figures of speech that become fixed in a language. Usually, an idiom is figurative in modern contexts but once had a literal meaning. In this issue. we’ll look at 5 interesting idioms and teach you where the expressions came from2) – and more importantly how to use them. 

Don’t judge a book by its cover.


■ outward appearance cannot be an indicator of     someone or something’s value or worth

■ you cannot know what someone or something is like    just by looking the person or thing’s appearance
Example Sentences

1. The candidate did not look very intelligent, but you can’t judge a book by its cover.

2. The hotel looked attractive from outside, but the rooms were damp and not well maintained. You can’t judge a book by its cover!

3. At first we did not want to go into the restaurant as it looked small and cramped; but the food was delicious – we realized that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

4. That man may look very small and insignificant, but don’t judge a book by its cover – he’s a very powerful man in his circle.

This is the kind of idiom that every wise man or woman should agree with and is about how we shouldn’t judge or make a decision about someone or something based on a brief impression or outward appearance. The phrase goes back to at least the mid-nineteenth century as found in George Eliot3) The Mill on the Floss (1860), where Mr. Tulliver uses the phrase in discussing Daniel Defoe4)’s The History of the Devil, saying how it was beautifully bound. We come upon the idiom again in a June 1867 article in the Piqua Democrat.

My ears are burning.

■ used to say that someone has the feeling that other   people are talking about him or her

Example Sentences

1. I bet his ears are burning right now.

2. "We were talking about you last night." "That explains why I felt my ears burning."

3. We should stop talking about Bill now – his ears must be burning.

4. Tom : “Hi Sue! Were your ears burning last night?”  Sue : “Why? Were you talking about me?”  Tom : “Yes, I had dinner with Jason and we were talking about you all night. Only good things of course!”
Cartoonist : Baloo -Rex May

In many countries and different cultures a burning sensation in the ears supposedly means that a person is being talked about by others. The origin of this belief goes back to Roman times when augurs3), religious officials who observed natural signs, paid particular attention to such things. According to the augurs, if your left ear burned, it was a sign of bad intentions by the ones who were talking about you, but if your right ear burned, then you should be happy because you were being praised.

It's raining cats and dogs


■ too much heavy rain

■ torrential rain

■ very heavily raining

■ raining tremendously

Example Sentences

1. It’s raining cats and dogs I am worried about how my kids will reach home.

2. It rains cats and dogs when the Monsoon comes in India.

3. How will you go to play Cricket today? It’s raining cats and dogs.

4. When we were returning from the picnic, it was raining cats and dogs.

5. I think it’s not safe to drive the car now – it’s raining cats and dogs.

Joseph Gordon

This must sound like a very odd expression to someone just hearing it for the first time. There are a lot of things we have seen falling from the sky, but cats and dogs aren't one of them. One has to wonder, how did this expression come about? It's quite simple, really. It originated in England in the 1500's, when houses had thatched roofs. A thatch roof consisted of straw piled high, with no wood underneath. In cold, foggy England this was sometimes the only place for an animal to get warm. Cats, other small animals and the occasional dog would wind up on the roofs. When it rained really hard, some of the animals would slip off the roof and wash up in the gutters6) on the street. Hence, the saying, "It's raining cats and dogs" ended up referring to a particularly heavy rain. 

Under the weather


■ Feeling sick; ill. It can also mean that a person is feeling sad or depressed


■ ailing, indisposed, peaked, poorly, seedy, sickly, unwell.

Example Sentences

1. My son was sick yesterday, and now I’m feeling a bit under the weather. 2. You look a bit under the weather.

3. I'm feeling a bit under the weather - I think I've caught a cold.

4. You've been under the weather for some days now; why don't you see a doctor


This idiom is believed to be nautical nautica7) in nature. When a sailor was feeling ill, he would go beneath the bow8) which is the front part of the boat. This would hopefully protect him from adverse conditions, as he was literally under the bad weather that could further sicken him. Therefore, a sailor who was sick could be described as being “under the weather.”

Blood is thicker than water

■ family relations and bonds are closer than other relationships

■ people who are related have stronger bonds with each other than with others

■ blood relations are more important than other kinds of relations
Example Sentences

1. My friends are going for a camping trip during the weekend, but I have to help my brother with his shifting. Blood is thicker than water, you know. 2. I had to choose between attending my cousin’s and friend’s wedding, which  were on the same day, and I chose my cousin’s. Blood is thicker than water, after all.

3. When his sister was going through a difficult period and needed support, he dropped everything and went to stand by her; blood is thicker than water.
Jose De La Rosa

You probably think this means you should always put family ahead of friends. In fact, it originally may have meant the opposite. The full maxim was “The blood of the covenant9) is thicker than the water of the womb,” with covenant referring to friendship. In other words, it was your friends-your blood brothers, if you will-who were with you through thick and thin.

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