Dictionary.com Word FAQs
What do you call a saying such as egg on your face? I get mixed up between idioms, colloquialisms, slang, jargon, euphemisms, clichés, metaphors, catch phrases, aphorisms, and similes.
A saying like have egg on your face is an idiom. This old-fashioned idiom means 'to be embarrassed or seem stupid because of something that you said or did'. Here are some guidelines for the word classes and figures of speech you mention:
- allusion: instance of indirect or passing reference, e.g., Scrooge, Peyton Place, Dudley Do-Right.
- aphorism: comprehensive maxim or statement of principle, e.g., To the man who is afraid everything rustles. - Sophocles
- catch phrase: a phrase in wide or popular use, especially one used as a slogan for a group or movement, e.g., it takes one to know one, every home should have one.
- cliché: trite, obvious, overused expression, e.g., beat a dead horse, get off your high horse, rain cats and dogs.
- colloquialism: expression not used in formal writing or speech. Slang, jargon, and idioms are examples of colloquialisms.
- euphemism: substitution of a mild, vague, or indirect term for a more harsh or offensive term; e.g., personal hygiene, light housekeeping, the trots, white elephant.
- idiom: an expression having a sense peculiar to itself and not agreeing with the logical sense of its structural form; an expression whose meanings cannot be inferred from the meanings of the words that make it up; e.g., the last straw, fine art, red-letter day, show someone the door.
- jargon: specialist or occupational slang; e.g., "critical path analysis" in management, "New Left" in politics, "bank shot" in billiards.
- metaphor: figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, e.g., Keep your shirt on, pied piper, poetic justice.
- simile: figure of speech in which two essentially unlike things are compared, often in a phrase introduced by like or as, e.g., happy as a clam, out like a light.
- slang: casual and playful language that is humorous, irreverent, offensive, or used for effect; e.g., pimpmobile, four on the floor, jump ship, hot and bothered.
An aphorism is a short, pithy saying or adage, like "The future is a mirror without any glass in it." A catch phrase is a saying in popular use, such as a slogan, like "Cowabunga!" A cliché is a commonplace or stereotyped phrase that has been overused, such as "all the tea in China." Colloquialisms are simply informal expressions, especially those of a local or regional dialect, like "gonna" or "gotcha." A euphemism is an inoffensive expression that is substituted for one that is considered offensive, e.g., "ladies' room" instead of "bathroom." An idiom is described as an expression whose meaning cannot be inferred from the conjoined meanings of the words in the expression, such as "break a leg," "couch potato," "hit the hay," or "Third World." Jargon is a general term for the special or technical terminology that is characteristic of a particular subject or field, like the terminology of bingo. A metaphor is a figure of speech in which an expression is used to refer to something that it does not literally denote, in order to suggest a similarity, e.g., "He looked at her with an eagle eye" and "We are on the road to peace." A simile is a figure of speech that expresses a resemblance between things of different kinds and it is infiltrated with like or as, e.g., "happy as a clam" or "frisky as a kitten." Slang is informal language consisting of words and expressions that are not considered appropriate for formal occasions and often such expressions are considered to be vulgar or irreverent, as in "get it together" or "psycho." These are just a few of the many different types of language with which you can become familiar.