id·​i·​om | \ ˈi-dē-əm How to pronounce idiom (audio) \
plural idioms

Definition of idiom

1 : an expression in the usage of a language that is peculiar to itself either in having a meaning that cannot be derived from the conjoined meanings of its elements (such as up in the air for "undecided") or in its grammatically atypical use of words (such as give way)
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

Synonyms for idiom


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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.

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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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web This idiom dates back 200 years to when people hunted with packs of dogs. Marylou Tousignant, Washington Post, 30 May 2022 The new album from a singer known for constant reinvention is a subtle departure from her earlier work, dipping back into her intense, intimate idiom. Mark Richardson, WSJ, 28 May 2022 The 250-room, gargoyle-sprouting château, designed in a French Renaissance idiom for George Washington Vanderbilt (1862-1914), was an otherworldly addition to the hardscrabble North Carolina upcountry of the 1890s. Catesby Leigh, WSJ, 11 Mar. 2022 Subtlety is the shared idiom across WurlD’s fusionist experiments. Sheldon Pearce, The New Yorker, 16 Mar. 2022 One size does not fit all with automobiles, and the same idiom applies to EV charging infrastructure. Jordan Ramer, Forbes, 7 Mar. 2022 There’s also an idiom that is attributed to printers’ lingo: out of sorts. Melissa Mohr, The Christian Science Monitor, 28 Feb. 2022 While in office, Trump had deployed an apocalyptic idiom that clashed dramatically with the libertarians' characteristic optimism. Samuel Goldman, The Week, 2 Feb. 2022 The Rams will put the age-old idiom about the third time being the charm to the test against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Adam Burke Vsin, Los Angeles Times, 28 Jan. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of idiom

1575, 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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Last Updated

17 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Idiom.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for idiom


id·​i·​om | \ ˈi-dē-əm How to pronounce idiom (audio) \

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.

More from Merriam-Webster on idiom

Nglish: Translation of idiom for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of idiom for Arabic Speakers


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