Idioms (L)

landslide victory

meaning: victory by a very large margin (usually elections)

1. Three months ago the election looked like it would be neck-and-neck; the scandal, however, changed all that, and in the end Dave won with a landslide victory.
lap dog

meaning: a person who will do anything to please an important person, hoping to get favour

1. “You’re pathetic, just a lap dog to the bosses. Why don’t you say what you really feel? Or are you too afraid?”
last hurrah

meaning: a last happy or good thing before something dies/ends

1. He has had a good career, and in many ways this final season has been a wonderful last hurrah before he finally retires.
on (its) last legs

meaning: not long left to live; going to die soon

1. “Sorry, I think your rabbit is on its last legs. It is pretty old, and sick. I’m not sure how much longer it can last.”

2. “I’m afraid this shop is on its last legs. Once the bank asks for its money back, there will be nothing left to do but close.”
(in the) lap of the gods

meaning: our fate is out of our control; god will decide how this finishes

1. “We have done all that we can. It is in the lap of the gods now.”
(have) the last laugh

meaning: have the final say; after all our competition and you trying to beat me, I win and you lose

1. At school the children were always very cruel to Anna, but she had the last laugh: she is now a successful businesswoman, and they are all envious of her success.
the last straw

meaning: after so many bad/annoying things, this latest one is when I have finally had enough

1. “I have cleaned for you, cooked for you, and I have even washed your clothes; but borrowing money from me is the last straw. I quit!”
(a) late bloomer

meaning: a person who grows up or succeeds later in life than most people

1. Anna was something of a late bloomer, only really becoming a success once into her mid-forties.

2. “Don’t worry about being 30 and still not knowing what you want, or feeling you haven’t done anything interesting; lots of people are late bloomers.”
laughing stock

meaning: an embarrassing object or person that everyone laughs at

1. Dave’s car was the laughing stock of the group: second-hand, old, and falling apart, it looked like it would break down, or the wheels would fall off.

2. “Please mum, don’t come to the party; if you do I’ll be the laughing stock of the whole school.”
law unto (yourself)

meaning: a unique person who can’t be controlled by normal means and doesn’t follow the rules (slightly negative)

1. He is a good guy, but when it comes to expressing his opinion he is a law unto himself. The bosses wish he would hold his tongue sometimes but, at the same time, know his ideas make them money.
lay down the law

meaning: strictly state the rules, including what punishments peeople get for breaking those rules

1. The first thing the new boss did was lay down the law to the workers he felt were wasting company time and money. They have one month to improve, otherwise they are gone.
lay it on thick

meaning: to overstate or exaggerate a point or flattery, done in order to get what you want

1. “You’re great. The way you dance is amazing, and you’re the funniest girl I know. Plus I think you have the most beautiful eyes in the world.”
“I think you’re laying it on a bit thick.”

2. At job interviews he has a simple tactic: flatter the interviewer. Tell him his company is great; compliment his shoes, his suit, and his tie. Just don’t lay it on too thick.
(the) lay of the land

meaning: how things work around here

1. “Come with me and I’ll show you the lay of the land. Really, it isn’t very difficult, and I think you’ll settle quickly.”
lead (someone) up the garden path

meaning: to keep giving someone hope, when you already know there is not going to be a good result

1. “You can’t keep leading her up the garden path. She thinks you love her, and maybe you’ll get married. The longer you don’t tell her you want out, the worse it is going to get.”
learn the ropes

meaning: to learn the skills (usually in a new job)

1. It took Phil a few months to learn the ropes, but he is an excellent employee now.

2. “Dave, this is Anna. She will help you learn the ropes.”
leave no stone unturned

meaning: look everywhere for something; look everywhere for an answer

1. Dave promised his bosses he would leave no stone unturned in his search for a quality replacement.

2. “I want this criminal caught. Get out there and find him. Leave no stone unturned. I want answers!”
leave well alone

meaning: do not touch; do not talk about that subject

1. “I know you want to talk to her about her split up with her boyfriend, but I think you should leave that well alone, at least for a week or two.”
left in the dark

meaning: to not be told what is happening

1. Dave decided he needed a new job. He was tired of being overlooked for promotion, and being left in the dark about big decisions.

2. “They haven’t told me anything about what is going to happen. I’m totally in the dark.”
leave (you) to (your) own devices

meaning: leave you on your own to do whatever you want

1. After a week of meetings at the conference, it was good to be left to his own devices for a while. He decided to go to the museum.

2. “Ok, I have to go to work so I’m going to leave you to your own devices. If you get hungry, there is some food in the fridge.”
lend an ear

meaning: to listen to someone’s problems; to let somebody tell you what their problems are

1. Phil was a good friend: always with a kind word, and always happy to lend an ear whenever someone needed to talk.

2. “If you’re having problems, I’d be happy to lend an ear.”
a leopard can't change it's spots

meaning: a person is always the same, and always acts the same (usually doing bad things)

1. Anna didn’t trust him. Yes, he was being nice now, but she knew it would not be long until he started being cruel. She knew a leopard doesn’t change its spots.

2. “I see from your pictures you spent a lot of time in the bar on this trip. I guess a leopard can’t change his spots.”
the lesser of two evils

meaning: the ‘less bad’ of two bad choices

1. Dave didn’t want to work with Phil, but he was the lesser of two evils; if he didn’t choose Phil, he would have to work with Anna, his ex-girlfriend.
let your hair down

meaning: to forget about work and go out and have fun

1. “It has been a hard week at work. Tonight I’m just going to go out and let my hair down.”
let your guard down

meaning: to stop being prepared, and have other people take advantage of you

1. “The moment he lets his guard down I am going to crush him.”
try/do (your) level best

meaning: try your hardest

1. Arriving half way through the course, Anna tried her level best, but she was too far behind and finally had to drop out.

2. “Just go out and try your level best. That is all I am asking.”
a licence to print money

meaning: a hugely profitable venture

1. The boss thought an English school was going to be a licence to print money because there were so many students wanting to learn. However, there were also a lot of other schools, and within three months his school had closed.

2. Selling sandwiches to expats is a licence to print money: they don’t care how much they spend, and the ingredients are so cheap.
lie low

meaning: to be quiet and try to avoid attention, especially after doing something bad

1. After robbing the bank, the thieves decided to lie low for a while. Then, when the police had forgotten about them, they would rob another one.

2. “Oh god, last night I got drunk and made an idiot of myself. I think I’m going to lie low for a while: stay in for a week or two.”
a level playing field

meaning: everyone has the same chance of winning or succeeding

1. “This department is killing me. Every time I start, the boss gives me loads of extra work. She does nothing, and gets rewards. I don’t mind working hard, but I do want a level playing field.”
lie through (your) teeth

meaning: to tell a big and obvious lie

1. “He said he wanted me to win, but he was lying through his teeth. I know he hates me.”
light a fire under (someone)

meaning: to get someone motivated – especially if they are lazy – and suddenly make them work hard

1. “This is the laziest group of staff I have ever seen. Someone needs to light a fire under them, or start getting rid of some of them.”
light at the end of the tunnel

meaning: a positive event after a long time of misfortune or hard work

1. It had been a hard year, with lots of overtime and often working weekends, but now, finally, there was some light at the end of the tunnel. The project would end and they could relax.
light on (your) feet

meaning: to be quick, agile, or quiet in moving

1. The best boxers are, despite being big, actually very light on their feet.
light years ahead

meaning: far better and more advanced than others

1. Mobile phones now are light years ahead of what they used to be.

2. When it comes to games consoles, the new Xbox is light years ahead of the competition.
like a bat out of hell

meaning: very very fast (possibly out of control or a bit crazy)

1. He had only just arrived when she told him the news. Suddenly, he ran out of the restuarant like a bat out of hell, leaving her alone again. The rest of the customer looked at her.
like father, like son

meaning: for a boy or man to act the same as his father

1. “I see you like fishing too. Well, like father, like son. I just hope you catch more than your dad ever did.”
like it, or lump it

meaning: either don’t complain, or leave

1. “I am the new boss. I am tough but, like it or lump it, we are working together.”

meaning: cowardly

1. All his life Dave had worried he was a coward, as lily-livered as a man could be; yet when the house caught fire he found bravery he never knew he had.

2. “I don’t want any lily-livered idiots in my team. If they start kicking, or cheating, then you kick and cheat. You go out there and you beat them.”
the lion's share

meaning: the majority; the biggest part

1. The lion’s share of the crowd enjoyed the concert, but a few people were disappointed.

2. The food was delicious, and quickly finished, with Dave eating the lion’s share.
(pay) lip service

meaning: to insincerely talk about doing something, because you want people to think you care about it, but actually not doing anything about it

1. The boss paid lip service to the staff’s efforts, but offered them none of the profits.
(a) live wire

meaning: a very active person

1. One of the reasons this rock group is so popular is because the lead singer is a bit of a live wire, running around the stage like a headless chicken.
lo and behold

meaning: and, unsurprisingly, look what happens! (spoken)

1. “The boss suggested that maybe some people might lose their job this year and, lo and behold, everyone started working harder.

2. He is a greedy player, and so when it came to the final shot, lo and behold, he decided he was the best player to shoot.
lock horns (with somebody)

meaning: to argue with someone over their opinion

1. His father always told him not to be afraid of people, no matter their position, and it was better to lock horns and fight than sneak away like a coward.

2. “I don’t think locking horns with the boss was the cleverest thing you have done.”
long in the tooth

meaning: old (people or animals)

1. Some people said he was too long in the tooth to be any good, but he showed them all to be wrong.
look after number one

meaning: look after yourself and don’t worry about others

1. “There are times when it is good to be polite; but there are times when you need to look after number one.”

2. “My father told me I should look after number one, because nobody else is going to.”
look on the bright side

meaning: look for the positives

1. “Ok, she dumped you. But look on the bright side: now you can ask that pretty waitress out.”
look what the cat dragged in

meaning: you look terrible; you look a mess (when someone arrives)

1. “Oh my god, look what the cat dragged in. You look like you need some sleep.”
(a) loose cannon

meaning: someone who is unpredictable in their job

1. The manager decided to be lenient with him. Yes, he is a loose cannon, but sometimes an unpredictable player is what wins games.

2. “I think we need to replace Dave: he’s too much of a loose cannon. Nobody knows what he is going to do, and it is making it hard for other people to do their jobs.”
loose ends

meaning: small unsolved problems that remain after the main part of the problem has been solved

1. The sergeant told the officers that he didn’t want any loose ends – the job needed to be done completely, because he didn’t want the jury to doubt the evidence.

2. “The deal is nearly done; we just have to tie up some loose ends, and that will be us finished.”
at a loose end

meaning: not knowing what to do with your time

1. Since his girlfriend went back to her mother’s for a week, Phil has been at a loose end as to what to do.
lose the plot

meaning: lose your mind; go crazy

1. “I have never seen anyone lose the plot like that: one minute he is fine, and then somebody mentions his ex-wife and he starts screaming and breaking the furniture!”
lose (your) shirt

meaning: lose a lot of money

1. Dave lost his shirt in that property deal. It is going to take him a long time to recover.

2. Anna, unfortunately, didn’t realise how the stock market works until she had already lost her shirt.

3. “Can we stop playing? I’m losing my shirt here, and if my wife finds out how much money I’ve lost she’ll kill me.”
lower (your) sights

meaning: you are being too ambitious, try for something easier

1. Five years ago he was very ambitious, but as time has passed he has lowered his sights, and now happiness and peace are all he truly wants.

2. “Ha, you want to ask her out? I think you need to lower your sights a little: she is way out of your league.”
the luck of the draw

meaning: something happens in life by chance, and cannot be controlled

1. “I wasn’t born with an attractive face, but that is just the luck of the draw.”
lone wolf

a person who prefers to do things by him/herself, without asking for help

1. Phil likes to go to bars to meet women. He always prefers to be a lone wolf too; other people just get in his way.

2. “You should watch out for Dave in this election. He might be a lone wolf, without the media support that other people have, but I think he could still win.”
line of communication

meaning: the process through which people communicate

1. During wartime, keeping a clear line of communication – both to the front line, and amongst officers – is vital.

2. “We need to improve our lines of communication: too many people aren’t hearing what is happening until it is too late.”
a little bird told me

meaning: I heard from someone (but I’m not going to tell you who)

1. A little bird told me that you’ve been dating Dave. Are you sure that is a good idea?

2. A little bird told me that things aren’t going well at your company. Maybe we can talk about transferring you to ours.
living hand to mouth

meaning: being very poor, only making enough money to cover things needed right away (such as food)

1. For four years Philip lived hand to mouth on the streets, doing odd jobs each day to pay for his food and shelter.

2. “I would rather be a beggar living hand to mouth than accept money from you.”