27 Idioms for Bad


When it comes to describing negative situations, behaviors, or experiences, idiomatic expressions play a crucial role.

These idioms can help you express various forms of adversity, difficulties, or unfavorable circumstances.

idioms for bad

What is an idiom for bad?

Idioms are phrases or expressions whose meanings go beyond the individual words they comprise.

When it comes to idioms for bad situations or behaviors, they encapsulate a range of negative experiences or actions.


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Created by Dr. Julia Rossi

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1 / 20

What is a simile?

2 / 20

Identify the simile in the following sentence: “She swims like a fish.”

3 / 20

What is a metaphor?

4 / 20

Which of the following is a metaphor?

5 / 20

What is an idiom?

6 / 20

What does the idiom “break the ice” mean?

7 / 20

What is an adjective?

8 / 20

Choose the adjective in the following sentence: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

9 / 20

What is an abbreviation?

10 / 20

What does the abbreviation “e.g.” stand for?

11 / 20

What is a verb?

12 / 20

Identify the verb in the following sentence: “The cat sleeps on the sofa.”

13 / 20

“Out of the frying pan into the fire” is an example of:

14 / 20

Which of the following is an adjective?

15 / 20

The abbreviation “NASA” stands for:

16 / 20

Choose the metaphor in the following sentence: “Time is a thief.”

17 / 20

What does the idiom “hit the books” mean?

18 / 20

Which of the following sentences contains a simile?

19 / 20

“LOL” is an abbreviation for:

20 / 20

Identify the verb in this sentence: “They whispered secrets into the night.”

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Below, we’ll break down a list of these idioms, providing their meanings and examples to help you understand how to use them effectively.

IdiomMeaningExample Sentence
A rotten appleReferring to a person who has a negative influence on others.Sarah was a rotten apple in the team, spreading negativity and demotivating her colleagues.
In hot waterBeing in trouble or facing a difficult situation.After missing the deadline, he found himself in hot water with his boss.
On thin iceIn a risky or precarious situation, often close to getting into trouble.He knew that any further mistakes would put him on thin ice with the management.
Between a rock and a hard placeFacing a difficult choice between two equally challenging options.She was between a rock and a hard place, having to choose between her job and her family.
A black sheepReferring to a family member or person who is different from the rest, often in a negative or disreputable way.Despite their successful careers, John was considered the black sheep of the family due to his criminal record.
Down in the dumpsFeeling sad, depressed, or in a low mood.After the breakup, she was down in the dumps for weeks.
A rotten eggReferring to a person who behaves badly or unethically.The manager had to deal with a rotten egg among the employees who was stealing office supplies.
A snake in the grassDescribing someone who pretends to be friendly but is secretly deceitful or treacherous.She realized that her so-called friend was a snake in the grass when he spread rumors about her.
A wolf in sheep’s clothingSomeone who appears harmless or friendly but is actually dangerous or deceitful.The charming stranger turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing when he scammed her out of her money.
The devil’s advocateA person who takes a contrary position or challenges the prevailing opinion to stimulate discussion or debate.He played the devil’s advocate during the meeting, raising valid concerns that others hadn’t considered.
A tough nut to crackReferring to a problem or person that is very difficult to understand, solve, or deal with.The complex mathematical puzzle was a tough nut to crack, requiring hours of concentration.
A pain in the neckDescribing someone or something that is irritating or bothersome.Dealing with the constant noise from the construction site next door was a real pain in the neck.
A bitter pill to swallowSomething difficult to accept or come to terms with.Losing the championship was a bitter pill to swallow for the team, as they had worked hard all season.
A storm in a teacupReferring to a situation that is blown out of proportion, often causing unnecessary drama or concern.The argument over the missing pen was just a storm in a teacup; it was found in the drawer later.
A penny-pincherSomeone who is extremely frugal or stingy with money.Despite having a high-paying job, he was known as a penny-pincher, always looking for discounts.
A thorn in one’s sideReferring to a persistent problem or annoyance.The constant noise from the neighboring apartment was a thorn in her side, affecting her sleep.
A sinking shipDescribing a situation or organization that is failing or in decline.Many employees left the company, seeing it as a sinking ship with no future.
A fly in the ointmentReferring to a small issue or problem that spoils an otherwise positive situation.The rainy weather was the only fly in the ointment during their vacation in paradise.
A monkey on one’s backA persistent addiction or problem that is difficult to overcome.After years of smoking, quitting became a monkey on his back that he needed to address.
A wolf at the doorReferring to financial hardship or the threat of poverty.The medical bills were like a wolf at the door, constantly looming over their family.
A bull in a china shopSomeone who is clumsy or careless, often causing damage or disruption.His energetic nephew was like a bull in a china shop, knocking over fragile decorations.
A dead endReferring to a situation or path that offers no hope or potential for progress.The job with no room for advancement was a dead end, and he needed a new career path.
A broken recordSomeone who repeats the same statement, complaint, or idea incessantly.Whenever they discussed politics, he sounded like a broken record, repeating the same arguments.
A lost causeReferring to a situation or person that cannot be helped or improved.Trying to repair the old, damaged car seemed like a lost cause; it was beyond repair.
A can of wormsDescribing a situation or problem that, once opened or addressed, leads to numerous other issues or complications.Investigating the financial discrepancies in the company turned out to be a can of worms, revealing multiple irregularities.
A slap on the wristA mild or lenient punishment for wrongdoing.The fine for the parking violation was just a slap on the wrist, and he didn’t learn his lesson.
A rude awakeningExperiencing a sudden and often unpleasant realization or shock.The unexpected financial crisis served as a rude awakening for their extravagant spending habits.

Describing something as bad is like finding a dark cloud on a sunny day, casting a shadow over an otherwise bright situation. For more comparisons to describe something as bad, you can check this link: Similes for bad. And for a variety of metaphors related to badness, you can explore this link: Metaphors for bad.

Idioms for Bad

1. A rotten apple

Meaning: Referring to a person who has a negative influence on others.

In a Sentence: Sarah was a rotten apple in the team, spreading negativity and demotivating her colleagues.

2. In hot water

Meaning: Being in trouble or facing a difficult situation.

In a Sentence: After missing the deadline, he found himself in hot water with his boss.

3. On thin ice

Meaning: In a risky or precarious situation, often close to getting into trouble.

In a Sentence: He knew that any further mistakes would put him on thin ice with the management.

4. Between a rock and a hard place

Meaning: Facing a difficult choice between two equally challenging options.

In a Sentence: She was between a rock and a hard place, having to choose between her job and her family.

5. A black sheep

Meaning: Referring to a family member or person who is different from the rest, often in a negative or disreputable way.

In a Sentence: Despite their successful careers, John was considered the black sheep of the family due to his criminal record.

6. Down in the dumps

Meaning: Feeling sad, depressed, or in a low mood.

In a Sentence: After the breakup, she was down in the dumps for weeks.

7. A rotten egg

Meaning: Referring to a person who behaves badly or unethically.

In a Sentence: The manager had to deal with a rotten egg among the employees who was stealing office supplies.

8. A snake in the grass

Meaning: Describing someone who pretends to be friendly but is secretly deceitful or treacherous.

In a Sentence: She realized that her so-called friend was a snake in the grass when he spread rumors about her.

9. A wolf in sheep’s clothing

Meaning: Someone who appears harmless or friendly but is actually dangerous or deceitful.

In a Sentence: The charming stranger turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing when he scammed her out of her money.

10. The devil’s advocate

Meaning: A person who takes a contrary position or challenges the prevailing opinion to stimulate discussion or debate.

In a Sentence: He played the devil’s advocate during the meeting, raising valid concerns that others hadn’t considered.

11. A tough nut to crack

Meaning: Referring to a problem or person that is very difficult to understand, solve, or deal with.

In a Sentence: The complex mathematical puzzle was a tough nut to crack, requiring hours of concentration.

12. A pain in the neck

Meaning: Describing someone or something that is irritating or bothersome.

In a Sentence: Dealing with the constant noise from the construction site next door was a real pain in the neck.

13. A bitter pill to swallow

Meaning: Something difficult to accept or come to terms with.

In a Sentence: Losing the championship was a bitter pill to swallow for the team, as they had worked hard all season.

14. A storm in a teacup

Meaning: Referring to a situation that is blown out of proportion, often causing unnecessary drama or concern.

In a Sentence: The argument over the missing pen was just a storm in a teacup; it was found in the drawer later.

15. A penny-pincher

Meaning: Someone who is extremely frugal or stingy with money.

In a Sentence: Despite having a high-paying job, he was known as a penny-pincher, always looking for discounts.

16. A thorn in one’s side

Meaning: Referring to a persistent problem or annoyance.

In a Sentence: The constant noise from the neighboring apartment was a thorn in her side, affecting her sleep.

17. A sinking ship

Meaning: Describing a situation or organization that is failing or in decline.

In a Sentence: Many employees left the company, seeing it as a sinking ship with no future.

18. A fly in the ointment

Meaning: Referring to a small issue or problem that spoils an otherwise positive situation.

In a Sentence: The rainy weather was the only fly in the ointment during their vacation in paradise.

19. A monkey on one’s back

Meaning: A persistent addiction or problem that is difficult to overcome.

In a Sentence: After years of smoking, quitting became a monkey on his back that he needed to address.

20. A wolf at the door

Meaning: Referring to financial hardship or the threat of poverty.

In a Sentence: The medical bills were like a wolf at the door, constantly looming over their family.

21. A bull in a china shop

Meaning: Someone who is clumsy or careless, often causing damage or disruption.

In a Sentence: His energetic nephew was like a bull in a china shop, knocking over fragile decorations.

22. A dead end

Meaning: Referring to a situation or path that offers no hope or potential for progress.

In a Sentence: The job with no room for advancement was a dead end, and he needed a new career path.

23. A broken record

Meaning: Someone who repeats the same statement, complaint, or idea incessantly.

In a Sentence: Whenever they discussed politics, he sounded like a broken record, repeating the same arguments.

24. A lost cause

Meaning: Referring to a situation or person that cannot be helped or improved.

In a Sentence: Trying to repair the old, damaged car seemed like a lost cause; it was beyond repair.

25. A can of worms

Meaning: Describing a situation or problem that, once opened or addressed, leads to numerous other issues or complications.

In a Sentence: Investigating the financial discrepancies in the company turned out to be a can of worms, revealing multiple irregularities.

26. A slap on the wrist

Meaning: A mild or lenient punishment for wrongdoing.

In a Sentence: The fine for the parking violation was just a slap on the wrist, and he didn’t learn his lesson.

27. A rude awakening

Meaning: Experiencing a sudden and often unpleasant realization or shock.

In a Sentence: The unexpected financial crisis served as a rude awakening for their extravagant spending habits.

Quizzes About The Idioms in The Article

Quiz 1:
Question: What does the idiom “A rotten apple” refer to?

  • a) A delicious fruit
  • b) A person with a negative influence
  • c) A spoiled food item

Quiz 2:
Question: What does the expression “On thin ice” mean?

  • a) Walking on a frozen lake
  • b) Being in a risky or precarious situation
  • c) Standing on a sturdy surface

Quiz 3:
Question: When are you “Between a rock and a hard place”?

  • a) When you’re on a vacation
  • b) When you have to choose between two challenging options
  • c) When you’re relaxing at home

Quiz 4:
Question: What is a “Black sheep” in a family?

  • a) A person who loves black clothing
  • b) A person who is different from the rest in a negative way
  • c) A person with a successful career

Quiz 5:
Question: What does “A penny-pincher” refer to?

  • a) Someone who collects pennies
  • b) Someone who is extremely frugal with money
  • c) Someone who gives away money easily

Quiz 6:
Question: What is “A fly in the ointment” in a situation?

  • a) An insect in your food
  • b) A small issue or problem that spoils an otherwise positive situation
  • c) A successful event

Quiz 7:
Question: When is someone “A thorn in one’s side”?

  • a) When they give you a gift
  • b) When they are a persistent problem or annoyance
  • c) When they help you with your work

Quiz 8:
Question: What does “A sinking ship” describe?

  • a) A cruise liner
  • b) A situation or organization that is failing or in decline
  • c) A successful venture

Quiz 9:
Question: When are you “A lost cause”?

  • a) When you’re lost in a maze
  • b) When you cannot be helped or improved
  • c) When you’ve accomplished your goals

Quiz 10:
Question: What is “A rude awakening”?

  • a) Waking up early in the morning
  • b) Experiencing a sudden and often unpleasant realization or shock
  • c) Receiving a polite greeting

Answers:

  1. b) A person with a negative influence
  2. b) Being in a risky or precarious situation
  3. b) When you have to choose between two challenging options
  4. b) A person who is different from the rest in a negative way
  5. b) Someone who is extremely frugal with money
  6. b) A small issue or problem that spoils an otherwise positive situation
  7. b) When they are a persistent problem or annoyance
  8. b) A situation or organization that is failing or in decline
  9. b) When you cannot be helped or improved
  10. b) Experiencing a sudden and often unpleasant realization or shock

Conclusion

These idioms provide us with a vivid and expressive way to talk about negative situations, behaviors, and experiences. They add depth and nuance to our language, allowing us to convey complex ideas in a more engaging and relatable manner.

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