idiom

noun
id·​i·​om | \ˈi-dē-əm \

Definition of idiom 

1 : an expression in the usage of a language that is peculiar to itself either grammatically (such as no, it wasn't me) or in having a meaning that cannot be derived from the conjoined meanings of its elements (such as ride herd on for "supervise")

2a : the language peculiar to a people or to a district, community, or class : dialect

b : the syntactical, grammatical, or structural form peculiar to a language

3 : a style or form of artistic expression that is characteristic of an individual, a period or movement, or a medium or instrument the modern jazz idiom broadly : manner, style a new culinary idiom

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Synonyms for idiom

Synonyms

expression, phrase

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The Makeup of Idioms

If you had never heard someone say "We're on the same page," would you have understood that they weren't talking about a book? And the first time someone said he'd "ride shotgun", did you wonder where the gun was? A modern English-speaker knows thousands of idioms, and uses many every day. Idioms can be completely ordinary ("first off", "the other day", "make a point of", "What's up?") or more colorful ("asleep at the wheel", "bite the bullet", "knuckle sandwich"). A particular type of idiom, called a phrasal verb, consists of a verb followed by an adverb or preposition (or sometimes both); in make over, make out, and make up, for instance, notice how the meanings have nothing to do with the usual meanings of over, out, and up.

Examples of idiom in a Sentence

She is a populist in politics, as she repeatedly makes clear for no very clear reason. Yet the idiom of the populace is not popular with her. — P. J. O'Rourke, New York Times Book Review, 9 Oct. 2005 And the prospect of recovering a nearly lost language, the idiom and scrappy slang of the postwar period … — Don DeLillo, New York Times Magazine, 7 Sept. 1997 We need to explicate the ways in which specific themes, fears, forms of consciousness, and class relationships are embedded in the use of Africanist idiom — Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark, 1992 The expression “give way,” meaning “retreat,” is an idiom. rock and roll and other musical idioms a feature of modern jazz idiom
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Recent Examples on the Web

Richardson uses words impishly, rhyming, punning and twisting idioms at a prodigious rate. Giles Harvey, New York Times, "Letter of Recommendation: ‘The Totally Football Show With James Richardson’," 3 July 2018 For family nights, his parents would choose a movie in English rather than Spanish to watch together, so the whole family could become familiar with the idiom and cadence of the language in their new country. Jake Goodrick, azcentral, "For this Phoenix immigrant a choice of school offers path to college," 26 June 2018 Indeed, Nagano’s grasp of the Bernstein idiom is as complete as his orchestral command is firm. John Von Rhein, chicagotribune.com, "CSO under Kent Nagano delivers a snazzy slice of vintage Bernstein," 30 Mar. 2018 For Pedrood the whole nuclear deal reminds him of an old Persian idiom. Time, "'The Americans Cannot Be Trusted.' How Iran Is Reacting to Trump's Decision to Quit Nuclear Deal," 9 May 2018 These improvisatory additions never felt intrusive or showy, but were well within the Gershwin idiom. Tim Smith, baltimoresun.com, "BSO shines in colorful program with Alsop, Gerstein," 2 June 2018 The program is perhaps most notable for the rare performance of the music of Othmar Schoeck, a Swiss composer working in the latest of late Romantic idioms. David Allen, New York Times, "4 Classical Music Concerts to See in N.Y.C. This Weekend," 21 June 2018 The vernacular idiom that Hurston valued Wright and others deprecated as backward; her literary concern with romantic love was considered frivolous and even vulgar. Emily Bernard, The New Republic, "Zora Neale Hurston’s drive to tell the story of the slave trade’s last survivor," 19 June 2018 Also, just to revisit the music montage and the American-Russian-ness of it all with McDonalds: While U2 is an Irish band, the music is rock and roll, an American idiom. Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter, "Critics' Conversation: Tim Goodman and Daniel Fienberg on "Powerful" 'Americans' Series Finale," 31 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'idiom.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of idiom

1588, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

History and Etymology for idiom

Middle French & Late Latin; Middle French idiome, from Late Latin idioma individual peculiarity of language, from Greek idiōmat-, idiōma, from idiousthai to appropriate, from idios

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Time Traveler for idiom

The first known use of idiom was in 1588

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More Definitions for idiom

idiom

noun

English Language Learners Definition of idiom

: an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own

: a form of a language that is spoken in a particular area and that uses some of its own words, grammar, and pronunciations

: a style or form of expression that is characteristic of a particular person, type of art, etc.

idiom

noun
id·​i·​om | \ˈi-dē-əm \

Kids Definition of idiom

: an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but must be learned as a whole The expression “give up,” meaning “surrender,” is an idiom.

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More from Merriam-Webster on idiom

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for idiom

Spanish Central: Translation of idiom

Nglish: Translation of idiom for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of idiom for Arabic Speakers

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