Get the details behind our redesign


[id-ee-uh m] /ˈɪd i əm/
an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements, as kick the bucket or hang one's head, or from the general grammatical rules of a language, as the table round for the round table, and that is not a constituent of a larger expression of like characteristics.
a language, dialect, or style of speaking peculiar to a people.
a construction or expression of one language whose parts correspond to elements in another language but whose total structure or meaning is not matched in the same way in the second language.
the peculiar character or genius of a language.
a distinct style or character, in music, art, etc.:
the idiom of Bach.
1565-75; < Latin idiōma < Greek idíōma peculiarity, specific property equivalent to idiō- (variant stem of idioûsthai to make one's own, appropriate, verbal derivative of idiós; see idio-) + -ma noun suffix of result
1. See phrase. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source
Examples for idiom
  • But they seem to sense the necessity of speaking the jazz idiom out of their own convictions.
  • The dialogue is brilliant too, with every character speaking and thinking in his or her own idiom.
  • There are no traces of the restraint imposed by a foreign idiom.
  • The grammatical difficulties, that is, are complicated by considerations of idiom.
  • It is usually said here, as the idiom does of waking thought, that the mind interprets impressions of nerve-stimuli in sleep.
  • Anyone ever thought of an idiom: give an inch, take a mile.
  • They must also avoid the jargon of contemporary academic criticism and write in a public idiom.
  • Mantel contrives an unusual solution to the problem of idiom.
  • And if that means that in some way they share in some of the music and even some of the idiom of the material, that makes sense.
  • But subsequent speakers may have kicked the ladder away and memorized the idiom by rote.
British Dictionary definitions for idiom


a group of words whose meaning cannot be predicted from the meanings of the constituent words, as for example (It was raining) cats and dogs
linguistic usage that is grammatical and natural to native speakers of a language
the characteristic vocabulary or usage of a specific human group or subject
the characteristic artistic style of an individual, school, period, etc
Derived Forms
idiomatic (ˌɪdɪəˈmætɪk), idiomatical, adjective
idiomatically, adverb
idiomaticalness, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Latin idiōma peculiarity of language, from Greek; see idio-
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for idiom
1588, "form of speech peculiar to a people or place," from M.Fr. idiome, from L.L. idioma "a peculiarity in language," from Gk. idioma "peculiarity, peculiar phraseology," from idioumai "I make my own," from idios "personal, private," prop. particular to oneself, from PIE *swed-yo-, suffixed form of base *s(w)e-, pronoun of the third person and reflexive (referring back to the subject of a sentence), also used in forms denoting the speaker's social group, "(we our-)selves" (cf. Skt. svah, Avestan hva-, O.Pers. huva "one's own," khva-data "lord," lit. "created from oneself;" Gk. hos "he, she, it;" L. suescere "to accustom, get accustomed," sodalis "companion;" O.C.S. svoji "his, her, its," svojaku "relative, kinsman;" Goth. swes "one's own;" O.N. sik "oneself;" Ger. Sein; O.Ir. fein "self, himself"). Idiomatic is first attested 1712.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
idiom in Culture

idiom definition

A traditional way of saying something. Often an idiom, such as “under the weather,” does not seem to make sense if taken literally. Someone unfamiliar with English idioms would probably not understand that to be “under the weather” is to be sick. (See examples under “Idioms.”)

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source

Word of The Day

Difficulty index for idiom

Many English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for idiom

Scrabble Words With Friends

Quotes with idiom