American Culture

Spill the Beans: American Idioms Explained (A-R)

A boy whispering something in a girl's ear

Idioms exist in every language. Understand more common idioms will help you understand better what American people are talking about. So be sure to check out our other American idioms series part 1 and part 2.


Raining cats and dogs

When it is raining particularly heavily.

Example: “It’s really raining cats and dogs out here. I mean, not literally. That would be strange and messy.”


Show my/your/his/her true colors

To let others see what you or someone else is really like. Like X-ray vision, but real.

Example: “My professor showed his true colors when he stayed after class to help me.”


Smoke and mirrors

When something is deceptive or confusing, such as a magician’s tricks.

Example: “American marketing is just smoke and mirrors. And cute puppies.”


A student whispering to another student Spill the beans

To reveal secret information, such as the definitions of America’s most precious idioms. You’re welcome.

Example: “Come on, does she like me or not?” “Yeah, spill the beans, already!”


Take it with a grain of salt

A recommendation to be skeptical or not assume something is entirely true or accurate.

Example: “Take it with a grain of salt, but I hear our dining hall has the best hamburgers in the world. THE WORLD.”


That dog won’t hunt

Something that won’t work as planned. For instance, a poor excuse for missing class.

Example: “I thought Fridays are a holiday in America.” “Nice try. That dog won’t hunt.”


The writing’s on the wall

When it’s clear something bad is going to happen. Luckily, you are very brave.

Example: “The writing was on the wall when I asked my hungry friend to watch my sandwich.”


Third wheel (or fifth wheel)

Someone who is not needed or wanted in a situation, like a third wheel on a bicycle or a fifth wheel on a car.

Example: “Why is your friend on this date with us? He’s kind of a third wheel.”


Under the gun

Feel pressured to do something.

Example: “I don’t want you to feel under the gun, but your mother wants you to call more often or she’s going to cry herself to death.”


a person sick in bed Under the weather

When someone is sick. Or making up a vague excuse not to hang out with you.

Example: “Yeah, I really wanted to study together but I was feeling under the weather.”



Someone who is shy and tries to remain unnoticed at social events.

Example: “So are you a wallflower, or do you just like hiding behind the couch at parties?”


Wet blanket

Someone who prevents fun. For instance, by criticizing others or not joining in the fun.

Example: “Why are you being a wet blanket? Stop hiding behind the couch at this party.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *