Idioms and Origin
Published on December 28, 2015 by LA Hilden | Views: 2273

By definition an idiom is a word or phrase not taken literally.  They show up often in books and in everyday conversation.  I find the origins interesting and thought to share some of them with you.  A few of the origins are sketchy and I’ve taken the best explanations from what I researched.

Waking up on the wrong side of the bed. This idioms origin dates back to Roman times when it was considered bad luck to wake up on the left side of the bed.  If you got up on the wrong side of the bed it meant you’d have a bad day or be grumpy.

Crying wolf. This 15th century idiom is based on The Boy Who Cried Wolf fable by Aesop and means to give false alarm.

Caught red handed. This idioms origin dates back to 15th century Scotland. It likely referred to people being caught murdering or poaching with blood on their hands. It was used often in legal proceedings in Scotland and meant that the culprit was caught in the act of committing a crime.

Leave no stone unturned. This idiom dates from the mid-16th century and is based on the Greek legend about a general who buried a treasure.  Those seeking his treasure were told by the Oracle of Delphi to move every stone.



Working with a skeleton crew. Refers to working with the bare minimum to keep the business functioning, although it’s not as efficient.  It was first recorded in the 17th century.

Skeletons in your closet. This phrase is first recorded in 1812 in the Bluebeard fable.  It means you hide secrets and shame.

Mind your P’s and Q’s. This idiom has many possible origins.  Some say it refers to the old typesetting when each letter was put into place before the printing process began.  Lower case p’s and q’s were easily confused.  Some believe it was used because children often reversed these letters when learning to write.  And others say it was because in the old English pubs the number of pints and quarts were often tallied on a chalkboard to keep a running tab.  The idiom means to mind your manners.

A stone’s throw away. This refers to a short, undefined distance.  Early English versions of the Bible refer to “a stone’s cast.”  The idiom was used in a non-biblical manner by the end of the 16th century.

Get the ball rolling. This idiom is believed to have originated in sports in 19th century England, during the game of croquet.  It means to begin in speech or action.

Hit the sack or hit the hay. This idiom is from the 19th century and refers to how mattresses were filled with hay or sacks of hay.  It means to go to bed.

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