Exploring the world of common phrases

by Stelly in Fun Facts

February 6, 2024

9 minutes to read

Unlocking the power of common phrases

All of us have, at some point in our lives, used a common phrase. Sometimes, it happens spontaneously without us even thinking about it, whether we are on cloud nine or just over the moon.

Can you think of a time you have used a common phrase or idiom and truly knew the meaning of it?

In the following article, we will look at some facts about common phrases and the meaning behind them, how they developed and how we can incorporate them into our daily conversations with others.

What are common phrases?

Common phrases are groups of words that are often used together in everyday language. These phrases can be idioms, proverbs, or expressions that convey a particular meaning that may not be immediately clear from the individual words themselves.

These phrases are essential to communication, as they help us express our thoughts and ideas more effectively. Common phrases are continually used in conversations and emails, and English speakers widely understand their meanings.

10 of the Most used common phrases

These short expressions or sayings convey a certain meaning. Here are some of the most used common phrases:

1. "Break a leg" - This phrase is used to wish someone good luck with something, especially before a performance or event. The literal meaning is quite the opposite.

2. “Bite the bullet” - You use this phrase when you want someone to endure a painful situation, either physical or emotional, or a difficult situation with courage.

3. "The ball is in your court" - It is your turn to decide or take action about a situation.

4. "A piece of cake" - Something that is easy to do, like eating a chocolate cake.

5. “Hit the nail on the head” - This is not a literal nail you’re hitting, but rather to identify or describe something accurately.

6. "Under the weather" - When you are feeling sick or unwell.

7. “When pigs fly” - This is something that will never happen. Most people believe it’s like winning the lottery.

8. “Costs an arm and a leg” - Something that is very expensive.

9. "Once in a blue moon" - An event that rarely happens to you or in life.

10. "To kill two birds with one stone" - This is used when you have completed two tasks simultaneously.

These phrases are just examples of the many common phrases used in the English language.

How did common phrases develop?

The origins of common phrases are often difficult to trace, and many phrases have multiple origins that date back to the 1500s.

Some common phrases have their roots in historical events, literature, or popular culture. For example, the phrase “to pull someone's leg” is thought to have originated from the practice of tripping up beggars to steal their socks and shoes.

Other phrases have developed from analogies based on everyday experiences. For instance, the phrase “to kick the bucket” is usually used when someone has passed away. It is believed to have originated from the idea of a pig kicking a bucket while being slaughtered.

Similarly, the phrase "to let the cat out of the bag" is thought to have originated from the practice of dishonest farmers selling unsuspected buyers a cat instead of a piglet, which was carried in a bag. When the buyer opened the bag and discovered the fraud, the cat was literally "let out of the bag".

Common phrases have developed over time from various sources and have become an indispensable part of the language's cultural legacy.

Fun facts about the use of phrases and idioms

● Instead of using the phrase “It’s all Greek to me” when you are not knowledgeable about something, the Greeks themselves usually say, “It’s Turkish”, and the Turks say, “It’s French”. Chinese people often say, “This looks like it’s from Mars”. They all mean the same thing, although every culture has a different saying.

● We constantly call people with red hair "redheads" instead of "orange heads", as the hair is actually more of an orange colour because the phrase has been around longer than orange. Orange was first described as red up until the 1500s.

● The phrase "to steal someone's thunder" is derived from the dramatist John Dennis, who discovered that his idea for a thunder machine for his play was stolen and used in a separate play and guess what? The stolen play was used in the same theatre.

● The Listerine mouthwash company had an advertisement in the 1920s where they thought of the phrase, "Often a bridesmaid but never a bride". It does not refer to an actual wedding but was used to portray women with bad breath. In today's world, it means you are always second in line.

● An ancient Persian poet documented the legend of a king who challenged wise men to make him a ring that would make him happy when he was sad and sad when he was happy. They thrived and gave him a ring engraved with the phrase "This Too Shall Pass".

● The phrase "Turning a blind eye" is attributed to Admiral Horatio Nelson, who, during battle, was given the approval to withdraw by his superior. He then lifted the telescope to his eye, which was blinded from a previous injury and said, "I really do not see the signal", and continued with the attack. He literally turned a blind eye (looked the other way).

● "Pull out all the stops" derives from the pipes of organs. When the organ stops, the knobs around the console are either pulled or pushed to control whether or not a section of pipes produces sound and, consequently, the volume. You pull out all the stops when you have to play at full volume.

● The most used idiom today is, “seeing is believing”, but we leave out half of the original sentence. The full phrase from the 17th-century Englishman Thomas Fuller is, “Seeing is believing, but feelings are the truth”. The original saying actually has more meaning.

Malapropism: The incorrect use of words and phrases

What is malapropism?

Also called malaprop, acro-logia, or Dogberryism, it is the incorrect use of a word in the place of a word with a similar sound, either unintentionally or to add some comedy, thus resulting in a silly, often humorous utterance. Malapropism occurs most often as errors in natural speech.

The word "malapropism" comes from a character in the 1775 play named Mrs Malaprop, who appeared in The Rivals, produced by Richard B Sheridan. Mrs Malaprop intentionally used the wrong words with the same sounds for comedic effect.

What is phraseology?

Phraseology is the study of set or fixed phrases, expressions, idioms and other types of multi-word units in linguistics.

Expressions that take on a meaning that are more specific than, or otherwise not predictable, from the totality of their meanings when used alone.

The most basic units of analysis in Phraseology are often referred to as phrasemes. As per Prof. Kunin A.V, phraseological units are stable word groups with partially or fully transferred meanings.

For example, the Dutch Auction. The word Dutch pertains to the Netherlands, and an Auction is a general sale in which goods are sold to the highest bidder, but the implication is that it's not a sale in the Netherlands where goods are sold to the person with the most money. Instead, the saying has a meaning referring to any auction where the prices decrease and not increase.

How journalists use phrases and idioms

In accounts of events, journalists often use idioms and phrases as a shorthand way of representing their points crisply when idioms can provide images of what is being said, for example, “call the shots”, “jump the gun,” and much more.

The question is if it is acceptable for professional writing, and the answer is yes, but only in some instances.

Idioms and phrases are informal in nature, so they don't have much utility in formal writing. If you are working on something specialised or it's just critical that your readers know exactly what you are saying, disregard the idioms and use more literal language instead.

However, in the domain of academic writing, researchers aim to create impactful and compelling research papers. Academic idioms are one effective tool that is at their disposal. Properly using these idiomatic phrases can improve research papers' clarity, complexity, and compelling power.

Let's look at the top 3 phrases commonly used by researchers in academic writing.

1. “In the realm of” - This conveys the message of something within a particular field or area of study.

2. “Lay the groundwork” - This is commonly used when you want to establish a foundation or basis for further development, to learn something new from the start.

3. "Shed light on" - To clarify or understand a specific topic.

With all this on phrases in the area of academics, what is your view on their professional use?


We have looked at some common phrases, their meanings, and their uses in communication. It is important to remember that misusing an everyday phrase can lead to confusion or misinterpretations.

Common phrases will remain a useful tool for communicating ideas and expressing meaning in everyday speech. When used correctly, they can add meaning and expression to your language and help you connect with your audience.

Now that we have shed light on common phrases and idioms, we have laid the groundwork for you. The ball is in your court. Be bold and use the fun phrases within our language.

Article by Stelly

CasinoWow Contributor

Hey there! I am Stelly, and happily, I'm part of CasinoWow's content team. It excites me to be able to write and share with all gambling enthusiasts unbiased reviews and news that contribute to the gambling community and industry. Thankfully, I also have the chance to help you make an informed choice for casino brands and games, as well as provide interesting guides and news.

Anything incorrect or missing?

More from Fun Facts

FUN FACTS February 5, 2024

Fascinating facts: fun revelations on historical fashion trends

February 5, 2024
FUN FACTS February 6, 2024

Exploring the fascinating world of emojis

February 6, 2024
FUN FACTS March 22, 2024

Casinos 101 - A world filled with entertainment

March 22, 2024
FUN FACTS March 22, 2024

How to own your first date

March 22, 2024

CasinoWow is your trusted online casino comparison site, providing helpful guides, casino news, reviews and information for players worldwide. We're on a mission to create the world's best online gambling community through innovative technology and regulated gambling. DISCLAIMER: Gambling is illegal in some jurisdictions, and you must comply with the laws within your state or country. The legal age to gamble online varies depending on your country of residence. CasinoWow takes no responsibility for your actions. Gambling can be addictive. Please play RESPONSIBLY