English idioms relating to
DESCRIPTIONS OF PEOPLE (personality-character-appearance)
Abbreviated piece of nothing This slang expression refers to someone who is considered to be
insignificant or worthless.
Bob doesn’t think much of his new colleague. He calls him an
‘abbreviated piece of nothing’!
All brawn and no brain Someone who is physically very strong but not very intelligent is said
to be all brawn and no brain.
“He’s an impressive player to watch, but he’s all brawn and no brain.”
All sizzle and no steak Someone or something that turns out to be disappointing, after a
promotional campaign or marketing operation which led us to expect
something better, is called all sizzle and no steak.
“Because of all the electoral promises he made, which so far he has failed
to keep, many people call the new president “all sizzle and no steak”.
can’t be) all things to all people If you are all things to all people you please or satisfy everyone.
She’s exhausted trying to be a good wife, a good mother and a good
teacher, but she can’t be all things to all people.
Alter ego The term alter ego, which in Latin means ‘other self’,
refers to a very close and trusted friend who is very like yourself.
The apple of your eye. If somebody is the apple of your eye, this means that you like
them very much :
“My grandson is the apple of my eye”.
Armchair critic An armchair critic is someone who gives advice based on theory
rather than practice.
“That guy is such an armchair critic, no experience but plenty of advice! “
Armchair traveller Someone who reads books or watches TV programmes about other
places and countries but doesn’t actually travel anywhere is called an
A surprising number of adventure books are bought by armchair travellers.
A bad egg To refer to someone as a bad egg means that they cannot be
“I don’t want my son to be friends with Bobby Smith.
Bobby’s a bad egg.”
Behind the times A person who is behind the times has old-fashioned ideas and
does not keep up with modern life in general.
“Jane doesn’t have a mobile phone. She’s completely behind the times.”
Big cheese This expression refers to a person who has a lot of power and influence
in an organization.
“Tom’s father is a big cheese in the oil industry.”
Big fish in a small pond This term is used to refer to an important or highly-ranked person
in a small group or organization.
“He could get a job with a big company but he enjoys being
a big fish in a small pond.”
Born with a silver spoon in one’s
mouth. To say that someone was born with a silver spoon in
their mouth means that their family is very rich and privileged.
“She never has to worry about money; she was born with a silver
spoon in her mouth.”
Butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth. If you say that somebody looks as if butter wouldn’t melt in
their mouth, you are saying that they look completely innocent,
but that they are capable of doing unpleasant things.
Call a spade a spade A person who calls a spade a spade speaks openly and truthfully
about something, especially difficult matters.
“What I like about the new manager is that he calls a spade a spade –
it makes things so much easier for everyone.”
A fat cat To refer to a rich and powerful person as a fat cat means that
you disapprove of the way they use their money or power.