Idiom Word Lists

Idioms are so much a part of our everyday language that students who are native English speakers may not even notice that phrases like break a leg do not make literal sense. An idiom is an expression whose meaning is different from the literal meaning, such as It’s raining cats and dogs. The idiom does not mean cats and dogs are falling from the sky, but rather that it’s raining very hard. Our idiom word lists for kids help students of all ages via word study, activities, and idiom practice games to better understand and utilize them in reading, writing, and everyday conversation.

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Students will encounter idioms in their day-to-day life, either in conversation or literature. So K-12 teachers must regularly incorporate an idioms list into language arts lesson plans to ensure students understand not only these nonliteral figures of speech, but also have experience figuring out their meaning when confronted with unfamiliar idioms.

Teaching Idiom Practice

In addition, language arts teachers must specifically take into account teaching idiom word lists to English Language Learners (ELLs), who typically require explicit instruction and additional idiom practice, via games, activites, and more, to understand them in context. VocabularySpellingCity offers free ready-made idiom lists for kids in elementary, middle, and high school. Lists can be paired with interactive learning games and activities and free printable worksheets for idiom practice.

Although idioms are found in all cultures, they may be confusing to ELLs, students who did not have early exposure to English literature or language, and young learners. There are hundreds of idioms. They appear in numerous contexts, from sports to foods, animals to moods. Some idioms can also be classified as metaphors or similes because they compare two objects, for example apple of my eye or as cool as a cucumber.

Idiom word lists are covered throughout K-12 language arts. According to the ELA Common Core Standards in reading language arts, students should be able to distinguish between formal and informal language as early as second grade. Idioms are a prime example of colloquial language that might not be used in formal speech or writing. Students may begin to examine idioms they use in daily speech and can become familiar with more formal ways of conveying the same information. Pairing word study with our engaging idiom practice games for kids is a great method to improve knowledge retention and student engagement!

Practicing Idiom Word Lists

As students continue to familiarize themselves with idioms, they will also practice distinguishing between literal and nonliteral language. The term “idiom” is introduced in the ELA Common Core standards in fourth grade. However, the concept is commonly tested from third grade through 12th grade. VocabularySpellingCity provides practice through idiom practice games for kids like MatchIt Sentences and WhichWord? Sentences. Studying idiom word lists will help elementary, middle, and high school students learn to recognize popular idioms in conversation and in literature and to explain the meanings of common idioms. To further extend an idiom lesson plan and make learning fun, teachers can assign an idiom costume project. Students can dress up as a smart cookie or a pig that can fly for an idiom parade.


Idioms Sample List
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Learn about more types of figurative language: hyperbole, metaphors, personification and similes.

Idiom Word Lists

List of IdiomsView Common Core State Standards Related to IdiomsClose

Common Core State Standards Related to Idioms

Distinguish the literal and nonliteral meanings of words and phrases in context (e.g., take steps).

Recognize and explain the meaning of common idioms, adages, and proverbs.

Recognize and explain the meaning of common idioms, adages, and proverbs.

Other CCSS connections

Compare formal and informal uses of English.

Idioms – Animals
  • Hold your horses.
  • Take the bull by the horns.
  • Ants in your pants.
  • Fish out of water.
  • Cat got your tongue.
Idioms – Foods
  • Piece of cake.
  • Two peas in pod.
  • Spill the beans.
  • Walking on eggshells.
  • Cream of the crop.
Idioms – Sports
  • The ball’s in your court.
  • Dropped the ball.
  • Go to bat for you.
  • Skating on thin ice.
  • Threw in the towel.
Idioms – Elementary School
  • Don’t cry over spilled milk.
  • A leopard can’t change its spots.
  • You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
  • It’s raining cats and dogs.
  • A picture paints a thousand words.

 K-5 Idioms Practice Worksheet (WhichWord? Sentences)

Idioms – Middle School
  • Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
  • Every cloud has a silver lining.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
  • Who let the cat out of the bag?

 6-8 Idioms Practice Worksheet (Sentence Unscramble)

Idioms – High School
  • Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
  • Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
  • The ball is in your court.
  • Let sleeping dogs lie.
  • Variety is the spice of life.

 Practice Worksheet for Grades 9-12 Idioms List (MatchIt Sentences) provides word lists, printables, and interactive idiom practice games and activities that give students the opportunity to learn, recognize, and explain the meaning of idioms.

Try MatchIt Sentences with the Elementary School Idioms word list.

Idiom Practice Games for Kids