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[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.
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Examples for idioms
  • Focus students' attention to a pre-chosen article with plenty of sports metaphors and idioms.
  • There are tons of idioms in different languages that reflect this folk wisdom.
  • Sadly, idioms don't always accord with logical argumentation.
  • If you're looking for ardor and surprise idioms from a board, look no longer.
  • Pop needs popularizers, the musicians who pull lesser-known idioms into the mainstream.
  • It has idioms and expressions that must simply be learned and is developing some irregularities as well.
  • Juxtaposition of widely divergent musical styles and idioms is nothing new.
  • The music he wrote in retirement conforms to idioms he declared outmoded in his heyday.
  • Read through these ads carefully with students, making sure they understand any vocabulary, idioms or expressions.
  • To set aside, from time to time, its natural idioms.
British Dictionary definitions for idioms


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
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Word Origin and History for idioms
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
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idioms 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.
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