21 idioms from the world of sport

21 idioms from the world of sport - Illustration by Ben_WisemanEuro 2016 is just around the corner, with double the usual of number of teams taking part in one of football’s most exciting tournaments. Whether you’re a die-hard footie fan or just have a passing interest, whether you’re rooting for host country France, cheering on title-holders Spain, or waving the flag for one of the 22 other contending nations, you’re bound to hear a lot about the beautiful game over the coming month. To help guarantee that you’re on the ball during the conversation and to help make sure that you always know the score, we’ve put together 21 idioms from the world of sport. Let’s kick off, then, with kick off!

21 idioms from the world of sport:

  1. to kick off (football) – to start something, as in ‘Let’s kick this party off!’, but it can also be used to describe a violent situation erupting, as in ‘Suddenly a huge fight kicked off.’
  2. the ball’s in your court (tennis) – it’s up to you to make the next move or decision in a particular situation.
  3. to cover all your bases (baseball) – to prepare thoroughly to deal with a potentially risky or difficult situation.
  4. down to the wire (horseracing, from the wire across the track at the end of a race) – at the very last minute or just before something is due.
  5. get a head start (horseracing, from the act of letting a horse start ahead of their opponents) – to be given an (unfair) advantage early on.
  6. to give a blow-by-blow account of something (boxing) – to describe all the details of something that has happened, missing out nothing.
  7. it’s (just) not cricket (from cricket, unsurprisingly, which has always been associated with sportsmanship and gentlemanly behaviour) – Unsportsmanlike, unfair, unacceptable.
  8. below the belt (boxing, where blows below the belt are against the rules) – (to say) something particularly underhand, cruel or unfair to someone.
  9. jump the gun (racing sports in general) – to start something before it’s the correct time to do so.
  10. not up to par (golf, ‘par’ being the set number of strokes a golfer is expected to need for a specific hole or a specific course) – below the necessary standard, not as good as should be expected. This goes with par for the course, which means ‘normal or expected’.
  11. to show someone the red card (football) – to be dismissed or thrown out of a position of responsibility for unacceptable behaviour. Of course, there’s a lot more football vocabulary than just the red and yellow cards.
  12. skating on thin ice (ice-skating) – to be in a risky situation.
  13. out of my league (sports in general) – to be superior to you in some way. This is often said to express the idea that the person you are keen on romantically is more attractive than you are.
  14. throw in the towel (boxing) – to give up when you can no longer deal with a difficult situation or no longer want to carry on fighting or struggling for something.
  15. to be first past the post (horseracing) – to win something by getting to the end first. ‘First past the post’ is also used to describe electoral systems where the candidate or party that gets the most votes is elected.
  16. out of your depth (swimming) – not having enough skill, experience or knowledge to deal with a particular situation.
  17. to let the side down (sports in general) – to act in a way that embarrasses or causes trouble for your team or for the group of people you are part of.
  18. to be (thrown) in at the deep end (swimming) – to start something difficult, like a new job, without any preparation.
  19. to move the goalposts (football) – to change the rules of a particular situation midway, in order to make it more difficult for somebody to achieve a certain goal. If your goal is learning English, try these football-related activities.
  20. no holds barred (wrestling) – with no restraints.
  21. to have had a good innings (cricket, where an innings is the period a team is at bat) – to have lived and enjoyed a long life (often said of someone who has just died).

You might also be interested in…

– 30 useful English idioms and expressions

– 21 unusual English expressions from around the world

– 10 unusual expressions in English and where they come from

– 12 surprising facts about the English language

– 50 of the most useful English abbreviations and acronyms

– 20 words and phrases English owes to Shakespeare

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