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    What is Idiom?

    What is Idiom?

    The term ‘Idiom’ has various meanings. In its most understood form – Idiom is an expression, word, or phrase whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements or from the general grammatical rules of a language. In simple words, Idioms are words whose meaning is something different from what the words literally stand for.  Because of their characteristics, Idioms are called ‘Figure of speech’ and sometimes ‘Metaphorical Expression’ or simply ‘Metaphor’.  The word Idiom has been derived from the Greek words idios, meaning personal and private and idiousthai, meaning to make your own. Idioms can be confusing for many of us as we might take the literal meaning of a written or spoken word while it has been used in another sense. This is because we have not heard the combination of words used and they might have a hidden meaning as well. Idioms can become even more confusing if we happen to be in a foreign land. In some cases Idioms tend to be more unusual when they are translated into another language; either its meaning changes or the sentence becomes meaningless.

    However, there are some exceptions, some Idioms can be literal in their sense and they can have a literal meaning in one situation and a different idiomatic meaning in another situation.


    I sat on the fence  and watched the game – Here the Bold Text has a Literal Meaning.

    When Happy and Dilshad argue, it is best to sit on the fence  and not make either of them angry – Here the Bold Text means ‘Not supporting either side in a dispute’.

    The idiomatic meaning of a sentence thus changes as per a situation. In this manner, an Idiom is a phrase which does not always follow the normal rules of meaning and grammar. Though they do not follow grammatical rules and are sort of informal expressions,  they are popular and have a widespread usage and acceptance in formal communications. Some Idioms are so common that most native speakers do not even realize that they are using idioms. Therefore they are also known as ‘Sayings’ as well. Sayings and Phrases And Idiom can be easily understood if we know in which context, it is being used. Every language has its own Idioms. There are about 25,000 Idiomatic Expressions in the English language. The Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms explains over 7,000 idioms current in British, American and Australian English.


    Idiom Definitions

    •  A group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g., rain cats and dogs, see the light).
    • An expression whose meanings cannot be inferred from the meanings of the words that make it up.
    • A phrase or expression that is (usually) not taken literally. For example, “Don’t let the cat out of the bag” means to not tell something one knows, to keep silent.
    • An expression that has special meaning as a whole and which cannot be translated word by word: They had a ball. (They had a very good time.).

    Idiomatic Expressions

    Idiomatic Expressions is another term for Idioms. Idiomatic Expressions are able to communicate something more than just the meanings of the individual words. Idiomatic expressions are non-standard speech, slang or dialect that are natural to native speakers of a language. They convey a clear and meaningful message in very few words which would otherwise become lengthy to explain in non-idiomatic manner. For example Bad Apple, Act of God, Cold War etc.


    Idiom Examples

    • A man of his words – Meaning: A man to be depended on, a trustworthy man.
    • Hands full – Meaning: Very busy.
    • On the alert – Meaning : On your guard, ready to act.
    • Tries his hand – Meaning : Made an attempt.


    Importance of idioms


    • Idioms make a language more interesting and vibrant. They spice up the language which may become dull and boring if words weren’t twisted to mean something else.
    • Idioms are an important part language. So knowing them enables you to understand the native English being used.
    • Idioms enable you to learn a lot about the culture where you are a foreigner.
    • Mastery of Idioms makes every day communication easy and effective.
    • The knowledge of Idioms makes one more sociable as you are able to communicate natively and      effectively.
    • Overall it enhances one’s skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing native English.

    Idioms Ans Phrases

    There is a very bleak difference between Idioms and Phrases. Phrases are group of words which makes sense, but not complete sense where as Idioms are group of words which have a figurative meaning. Because the difference is almost negligible, Idioms and Phrases go hand in hand and are used in conjunction with each other. In fact, Idioms are Phrases which don’t make sense when broken into their parts, but can be understood as a whole.

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