Can You Define This American Expression?

By: Olivia Cantor

Can You Define This American Expression?
Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Don't "take a raincheck!" If you're ready to "call it a day," you should start relaxing by taking this quiz! From all the American expressions in the English language, how many of them could you define?

The English language originated between 400 and 600 A.D. in what we now consider the Germanic and Scandinavian areas of Europe. Since then, the language was brought over to Great Britain, where it traveled over the Atlantic Ocean to North America with its settlers. While it is now a common second language for international natives to speak, they might have a bit of difficulty recognizing American English expressions.

Each language has its own expressions. Rather than saying the classic,"Oh my God," the French are replacing it with "Oh, the cow!" Unlike our expression of something "costing an arm and a leg," the French have their own form by saying it "costs the eyes in your head." Whether you're giving up your arms and legs or your eyes, clearly whatever it is costs a lot!

While those expressions and idioms may seem easy, how many American ones can you recognize? If someone tells you they want to "burn bridges," will you be calling up the fire department? If someone is "giving the cold shoulder," is that because it's winter outside?

Can you remember all these American expressions? We hope so! "Face the music" with this quiz! Do these expressions "ring a bell"? Let's find out!

What does it mean to be "under the weather?"
A storm is coming.
Forgot your umbrella.
A bit sick or feeling sick.
When feeling "under the weather," it means that someone is not feeling too well. It could mean either the physical kind or mental kind of unwell.
Overate breakfast.

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What does "shooting the breeze" mean?
Getting a rifle registered.
Informal small talk.
"Shooting the breeze" usually means that someone is having some kind of informal talk with someone else; usually just small talk, nothing serious.
Go camping in the woods.
Go skinny dipping in the lake.

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What does "pass the buck" mean?
Blaming others.
When someone doesn't want to own up to their mistakes and want to pass the blame on, it's called "passing the buck." No, it's not any deer's fault, so don't blame them.
Go elk hunting.
Having no money.
Asking for alms.

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What does "by the skin of someone's teeth" mean?
Avoid the dentist at all cost.
Eat some candy secretly.
Narrow chance of surviving.
The expression "by the skin of the teeth" means that one had a narrow chance of surviving or getting through something. It could be as serious as getting out of huge life-or-death situations or surviving something seemingly small, but utterly catastrophic.
To french kiss a cousin.

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What does "feeling blue" mean?
A stock market crash.
Running into an ex who dumped you.
To feel sad.
When you're "feeling blue," it means you're feeling sad. Why do you think all the "blues" songs are so depressing?
Eating baloney at midnight.

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What does "an eye for an eye" mean?
To bow out of a relationship.
To exact the same level of revenge.
When we say an "eye for an eye," it means someone did the same level or more of wrong to someone who has wronged them previously. It's all Biblical and stuff.
To look at someone directly.
To get back with an ex.

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What does "the ball is in your court" mean?
Don't play basketball at night.
White men can't jump.
The next move is yours.
When we say "the ball is in your court," it means the next move is up to you. You have to decide fast, or lose the game, whether in sports or in life.
Throw in the towel.

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What does "call it a day" mean?
Buy a watch.
To finally stop and rest.
We usually hear office workers say "call it a day" it means they're finally going to stop working and prepare to go home. But this also applies to anyone doing very tiring activity, and deciding to stop.
Go stargazing.
Close the door and lights.

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What does "burning bridges" mean?
Going back with your ex, then splitting again.
Growing up to be an arsonist.
Cutting all ties drastically, by choice.
"Burning bridges" means someone decided to cut all ties or connections with another person mostly out of spite or in a fit of anger.
Dealing crack secretly.

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What does "to beat a dead horse" mean?
The farm went up in flames.
Doing something even if it's useless.
"To beat a dead horse" means doing something even if it's futile, or the end result is already known or will remain the same. So no, it's not exactly animal cruelty, but rather, cruelty of the mind.
To make glue.
To go vegetarian cold turkey.

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What does "at the drop of a hat" mean?
Make things public.
Immediately.
"At the drop of a hat" means one can be called upon immediately. It also means deciding things and responding to them quickly, often without hesitation.
To take it easy.
To steal clothes.

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What does "piece of cake" mean?
Very easy.
When someone brags that some activity or task is just a "piece of cake," it means the activity is perceived as very easy. Of course, this could also be just someone being a braggart, too.
Very hard.
Very sweet.
Very expensive.

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What does "screw up" mean?
To drink alcohol.
Get something out of your head.
To be good at fixing things.
Messed things up badly.
To have things "screw up" mean everything is a total mess, or something's not going well. This is applicable to a situation or to a person who made the mistake.

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What does "take a raincheck" mean?
Go to the bank.
Postpone for later.
When someone wants to "take a raincheck", it means they want to postpone a prior agreement of meeting up. This could apply to a friendly meet-up, a business meeting, or anything in between.
Earn a quick buck.
There's no credit card facility.

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What does "spill the beans" mean?
Go eat Mexican food.
Let the secret out.
When you want someone to "spill the beans," you're asking for a confession of sorts. It also means you want them to share their secret with you, or for them to give you information they're withholding.
Rob the bank.
Kick your loved one out of the house.

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What does "down to earth" mean?
Smile even if you're sad.
To get brokenhearted.
I'm dating a mountaineer.
Very humble.
Someone who is "down to earth" means they're not bragging about things that they could brag about. It also means that they're very approachable and easygoing.

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What does "lighten up" mean?
To relax a bit.
To "lighten up" means to lessen one's initial rage, outburst, or even sadness. Whatever it is, it means just take it easy or relax, so that things can dissipate a bit.
To fix the lamp.
To get a towtruck.
To smoke cigars.

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What does "giving the cold shoulder" mean?
Getting a temperature.
Ignoring someone.
When someone is "giving the cold shoulder" to someone else, it means they are totally ignoring this person.
Wearing the wrong kind of shirt.
Getting brain freeze.

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What does "hang out" mean?
To go skiing.
To get together for fun.
To "hang out" means to just chill kind of like getting together and doing fun stuff. Young and old alike do this action.
To climb up trees.
To go surfing.

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What does "plead the fifth" mean?
Don't say anything about one's self.
When Americans say "I plead the fifth," they're referring to the US Constitution's Fifth Amendment that basically protects someone from saying bad things that can directly harm that person or another. In short, they just don't want to say something that could backfire on them.
Get a copy of the constitution.
Put on make-up.
Ask an ex to get back together.

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What does "face the music" mean?
To play Beethoven.
To stop listening to the radio.
To accept the consequences of bad actions.
A brave or remorseful person could "face the music" after doing something bad. It means that they're ready to accept the consequences of their actions, even if it might hurt them badly.
To dance together.

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What does "avoid it like the plague" mean?
To eat broccoli.
Don't go to the dentist.
To not go near something or someone.
When they say "avoid it like the plague," it means don't go near it, at all costs. It may be a death sentence if to not heed this advice.
To sneeze in public.

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What does "back to the drawing board" mean?
Buy some paper.
Revisit the first step.
To "go back to the drawing board" means to retrace one's steps and go back to the first one. It basically means to start from scratch.
Go inside a mall.
Sleep on the couch.

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What does "to give props to someone" mean?
To afford some respect to someone.
"To give props to someone" means to honor a person in a small way, because they deserve some kind of recognition. "Props" is like a shortened slang term of "proper respect."
To make life a living hell for someone.
To ask someone for help.
To betray someone.

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What does it mean to be "bent out of shape?"
To get very upset.
When someone is "bent out of shape," it means they're not in a very logical and straight resolve, manner, or attitude. And it's because they're very upset over something.
Don't push me around.
Many battles are lost.
There is no spoon.

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What does "not buying it" mean?
Not believing.
When someone's "not buying it", it means they're very doubtful of an idea being sold to them.
Not withdrawing from a game.
Not joining a competition.
Not responding to resuscitation.

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What does "to drive up the wall" mean?
Go rappelling.
Make one go mad.
When a person makes another so mad, we could say that they're "driving someone up the wall." No seatbelt is necessary for this one.
Commit suicide.
Steal a car.

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What does "jack up" mean?
To raise something unjustly.
To "jack up" something, means to raise the stakes or the price abruptly, most times unjustly, too. It applies to money matters, mostly, but it could also refer to something intangible and priceless.
To slip on the sidewalk.
To eat something with chili.
To dance a foreign dance.

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What does "pig out" mean?
To go to the farm.
To eat too much.
To "pig out" means one is eating way too much and in excess of what's needed. Sometimes it's unconscious, but most times it's a conscious decision.
To sleep in the mud.
To go vegetarian.

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What does "going Dutch" mean?
To smoke a cigarette.
To go to Amsterdam.
To pay individually for their respective orders.
A couple "going Dutch" on a date means they pay individually for the food orders they took. That means neither will pay for both meals.
To go painting.

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What does being "between a rock and a hard place" mean?
To go down in a wrestling match.
Getting lost on the beach.
In the middle of two tough choices.
To get caught "between a rock and a hard place" means both decisions, sides, or choices that someone finds themselves in are equally tough or difficult.
To make amends with someone.

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What does "ring a bell" mean?
Work day is gone.
School is over.
Sounds familiar.
When something "rings a bell" for someone, it means that they recognize or remember something or someone. Some people say this sometimes to avoid being confronted by a fact.
Went haywire.

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What does it mean to "bark up the wrong tree?"
To ride the bus or train.
To take a walk.
To mistake something for another.
When someone is "barking up the wrong tree," it means they're mistaking something for something else. It could apply to a mistaken identity or a mistaken fact about a person, and it usually involves blaming that wrong person.
To get your dog out of the house.

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What does "hit the sack" mean?
To make amends.
To weave clothes.
To sleep.
When it's time to "hit the sack," it means it's time to sleep. Well, maybe because beds were made of sacks before?
To go to the farm.

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What does it mean to "twist someone's arm?"
To kill someone.
To force someone to agree.
To "twist someone's arm" means you want them to agree with you no matter what. And yes, it usually involves some sort of blackmail tendencies, so it could be a psychological kind of twisting.
To exercise excessively.
To make amends with an ex-lover.

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