27 Idioms for Culture: Expressions That Define Society


Culture is the fabric of our societies, and idioms for culture are like threads that weave the stories of our lives. These idioms are rich in meaning and can reveal fascinating insights about the values, customs, and beliefs of a particular group of people.

Idioms for culture, provide meanings and practical examples to help you understand the diverse and colorful world of cultural expressions.

Culture is like the rich soil in which the roots of a society’s traditions and values are firmly planted, nourishing the growth of its identity. For more comparisons to describe culture, you can check this link: Similes for culture. And for a variety of metaphors related to culture, you can explore this link: Metaphors for culture.

What is an idiom for culture?

Idioms for culture are phrases or expressions that are deeply rooted in the traditions, customs, and social norms of a particular group or society.


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Created by Dr. Julia Rossi

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1 / 20

What is a simile?

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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.”

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What is an abbreviation?

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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:

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

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They often carry meanings that may not be immediately evident to those outside of that cultural context. Let’s delve into the list of idioms for culture, decode their meanings, and illustrate them with sentences:

IdiomMeaningSample Sentence
A fish out of waterFeeling uncomfortable in an unfamiliar environmentSarah was like a fish out of water at the cultural festival, not familiar with the customs.
The apple of my eyeSomeone or something cherished or loved deeplyHer grandmother was the apple of her eye, and she cherished every moment with her.
Bread and circusesOffering distractions to divert from significant issuesSome politicians use bread and circuses to divert the public’s attention from pressing matters.
Break the iceStart a conversation to alleviate tension or awkwardnessAt the international conference, participants played ice-breaking games to break the ice.
Burning the midnight oilWorking late into the night or early morning hoursTo meet the deadline, he was burning the midnight oil, working tirelessly on the project.
Call it a dayStop working or doing an activity for the dayAfter completing all tasks, the team decided to call it a day and head home.
Don’t cry over spilled milkDon’t worry about things that can’t be changedIt’s unfortunate the cake was ruined, but there’s no use crying over spilled milk; let’s make a new one.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basketDon’t risk everything on a single opportunityHe decided to invest in different stocks, not putting all his eggs in one basket.
Every cloud has a silver liningEven in difficulties, there’s a positive aspectLosing his job allowed him to pursue painting; every cloud has a silver lining.
The ball is in your courtIt’s your turn to make a decision or take actionAfter hearing both sides, the judge said, “The ball is in your court; make your case.”
The whole nine yardsTo go all out, give maximum effortShe prepared for the exam by studying the whole nine yards, including textbooks and practice tests.
A penny for your thoughtsPolitely ask someone what they’re thinking or feelingWhile sitting in silence, she turned to him and said, “A penny for your thoughts.”
Actions speak louder than wordsWhat people do is more important than what they sayInstead of making promises, show commitment through actions; actions speak louder than words.
All in the same boatEveryone facing the same challenges or difficultiesDuring the economic crisis, we were all in the same boat, struggling to make ends meet.
Barking up the wrong treePursuing a mistaken or unproductive course of actionIf you think I took your pen, you’re barking up the wrong tree; I haven’t seen it.
Biting the bulletFacing a difficult situation with courageShe decided to bite the bullet and schedule the necessary surgery.
Don’t judge a book by its coverDon’t form opinions based on appearances aloneEven though he looks tough on the outside, don’t judge a book by its cover; he’s actually very kind.
The pot calling the kettle blackAccusing someone of a fault you’re also guilty ofIt’s like the pot calling the kettle black when he criticizes her for being messy; his room is messier.
You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggsAchieving something significant often involves sacrificesStarting a business is challenging, but you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.
Don’t count your chickens before they hatchDon’t make plans or assumptions before things happenWhile confident of winning, their coach reminded them not to count their chickens before they hatch.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwaterDon’t discard something valuable while trying to get rid of something unwantedYes, there are flaws, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater; we can make improvements.
The grass is always greener on the other sidePeople often think others’ situations are betterShe considered switching jobs but remembered that the grass is always greener on the other side.
The elephant in the roomAn obvious and significant issue everyone is ignoringThe tension between the two brothers was the elephant in the room at the family gathering.
A picture is worth a thousand wordsVisual images convey complex ideas or emotionsThe powerful photograph of the protest was a reminder that a picture is worth a thousand words.
A watched pot never boilsTime seems to pass slowly when eagerly waiting for somethingShe kept checking her phone for results, but a watched pot never boils; it’s better to be patient.
When in Rome, do as the Romans doAdapt to the customs of the culture or place you’re inWhile visiting Japan, he ate with chopsticks, following “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
Don’t rock the boatAvoid causing disruptions or conflicts in a stable situationDuring the meeting, he chose not to raise controversial issues and decided not to rock the boat.
idioms for culture

Idioms for Culture

1. A fish out of water

Meaning: Feeling uncomfortable or out of place in a new or unfamiliar environment.

In a Sentence: Sarah was like a fish out of water at the cultural festival, as she was not familiar with the customs and traditions.

2. The apple of my eye

Meaning: Someone or something that is cherished or loved deeply.

In a Sentence: Her grandmother was the apple of her eye, and she cherished every moment spent with her.

3. Bread and circuses

Meaning: Offering entertainment and material comforts to distract people from more significant issues or problems.

In a Sentence: Some politicians use bread and circuses to divert the public’s attention from pressing matters.

4. Break the ice

Meaning: To start a conversation or interaction to alleviate tension or awkwardness.

In a Sentence: At the international conference, participants played ice-breaking games to break the ice and get to know each other better.

5. Burning the midnight oil

Meaning: Working late into the night or early morning hours.

In a Sentence: To meet the deadline, he was burning the midnight oil, working tirelessly on the project.

6. Call it a day

Meaning: To stop working or doing an activity for the day.

In a Sentence: After completing all the assigned tasks, the team decided to call it a day and head home.

7. Don’t cry over spilled milk

Meaning: Don’t waste time worrying about things that have already happened and cannot be changed.

In a Sentence: It’s unfortunate that the cake was ruined, but there’s no use crying over spilled milk; let’s make a new one.

8. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Meaning: Do not risk everything on a single opportunity or venture; diversify your investments or efforts.

In a Sentence: He decided to invest in different stocks to follow the principle of not putting all your eggs in one basket.

9. Every cloud has a silver lining

Meaning: Even in difficult or challenging situations, there is always a positive or hopeful aspect.

In a Sentence: Losing his job allowed him to pursue his passion for painting; every cloud has a silver lining.

10. The ball is in your court

Meaning: It’s your turn to make a decision or take action.

In a Sentence: After hearing both sides of the argument, the judge said, “The ball is in your court; make your case.”

11. The whole nine yards

Meaning: To go all out, give maximum effort, or do everything possible.

In a Sentence: She prepared for the exam by studying the whole nine yards, including all the textbooks and practice tests.

12. A penny for your thoughts

Meaning: A polite way of asking someone what they are thinking or feeling.

In a Sentence: While they were sitting in silence, she turned to him and said, “A penny for your thoughts.”

13. Actions speak louder than words

Meaning: What people do is more important and revealing than what they say.

In a Sentence: Instead of making promises, show your commitment through actions; actions speak louder than words.

14. All in the same boat

Meaning: Everyone facing the same challenges or difficulties.

In a Sentence: During the economic crisis, we were all in the same boat, struggling to make ends meet.

15. Barking up the wrong tree

Meaning: To pursue a mistaken or unproductive course of action.

In a Sentence: If you think I took your pen, you’re barking up the wrong tree; I haven’t seen it.

16. Biting the bullet

Meaning: Facing a difficult or unpleasant situation with courage and determination.

In a Sentence: She knew surgery was necessary, so she decided to bite the bullet and schedule the operation.

17. Don’t judge a book by its cover

Meaning: To not form opinions or make assumptions about someone or something based on appearances alone.

In a Sentence: Even though he looks tough on the outside, don’t judge a book by its cover; he’s actually very kind.

18. The pot calling the kettle black

Meaning: Accusing someone of a fault or behavior that you are also guilty of.

In a Sentence: It’s like the pot calling the kettle black when he criticizes her for being messy; his room is even messier.

19. You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs

Meaning: Achieving something significant often involves sacrifices or difficulties.

In a Sentence: Starting a business is challenging, but you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.

20. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch

Meaning: Do not make plans or assume something will happen until it has actually occurred.

In a Sentence: While they were confident of winning the game, their coach reminded them not to count their chickens before they hatch.

21. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

Meaning: To discard something valuable or important while trying to get rid of something unwanted.

In a Sentence: Yes, there are flaws in the proposal, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater; we can make improvements.

22. The grass is always greener on the other side

Meaning: People often believe that other people’s situations or circumstances are better than their own.

In a Sentence: She thought about switching jobs, but she remembered that the grass is always greener on the other side.

23. The elephant in the room

Meaning: An obvious and significant issue or problem that everyone is avoiding or ignoring.

In a Sentence: At the family gathering, the tension between the two brothers was the elephant in the room that nobody wanted to discuss.

24. A picture is worth a thousand words

Meaning: Visual images can convey complex ideas or emotions more effectively than words alone.

In a Sentence: The powerful photograph of the protest was a reminder that a picture is worth a thousand words.

25. A watched pot never boils

Meaning: Time seems to pass more slowly when you are anxiously waiting for something to happen.

In a Sentence: She kept checking her phone for the test results, but a watched pot never boils; it’s better to be patient.

26. When in Rome, do as the Romans do

Meaning: Adapt to the customs and behaviors of the culture or place you are in.

In a Sentence: While visiting Japan, he decided to eat with chopsticks because he believed in the saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

27. Don’t rock the boat

Meaning: Avoid causing disruptions or conflicts, especially in a stable or calm situation.

In a Sentence: During the meeting, he chose not to raise controversial issues and decided not to rock the boat.

Quizzes About The Idioms in The Article

Quiz 1: A Fish Out of Water

  1. What does the idiom “a fish out of water” mean?
    a) Feeling comfortable in an unfamiliar environment
    b) Feeling uncomfortable in an unfamiliar environment
    c) Feeling at home in a new place
    d) Being a great swimmer

Quiz 2: Burning the Midnight Oil

  1. What does it mean to “burn the midnight oil”?
    a) Working late into the night
    b) Sleeping early and waking up early
    c) Working during the day
    d) Working in the dark

Quiz 3: Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk

  1. What is the message behind “Don’t cry over spilled milk”?
    a) You should cry when something is spilled
    b) Don’t worry about things that have already happened and can’t be changed
    c) Always keep extra milk
    d) Crying is a natural response to accidents

Quiz 4: Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

  1. What does the idiom “Every cloud has a silver lining” suggest?
    a) Clouds are silver
    b) There’s something positive even in difficult situations
    c) Clouds bring rain
    d) Silver linings are found in clouds

Quiz 5: Biting the Bullet

  1. What does it mean to “bite the bullet”?
    a) Literally biting a bullet
    b) Facing a difficult situation with courage
    c) Avoiding difficult situations
    d) Chewing gum

Quiz 6: Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

  1. What is the lesson in “Don’t judge a book by its cover”?
    a) Books should always have attractive covers
    b) Forming opinions based on appearances is unfair
    c) Judge books by their covers
    d) Always read the first chapter of a book

Quiz 7: A Penny for Your Thoughts

  1. When might you say, “A penny for your thoughts” to someone?
    a) When you want to buy their thoughts
    b) When you’re curious about what they’re thinking
    c) When they owe you money
    d) When you want to trade thoughts for pennies

Quiz 8: The Elephant in the Room

  1. What does “The elephant in the room” refer to?
    a) An actual elephant in the room
    b) An obvious and significant issue that everyone is avoiding or ignoring
    c) A small problem that no one cares about
    d) An invisible elephant

Quiz 9: Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater

  1. What does the idiom “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” mean?
    a) Babies should be thrown out with bathwater
    b) Keep something valuable while trying to get rid of something unwanted
    c) Throw out everything, including the baby, after bath
    d) Always use clean water for a baby’s bath

Quiz 10: The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side

  1. What does the saying “The grass is always greener on the other side” suggest?
    a) Grass is always green everywhere
    b) People often believe other people’s situations are better than their own
    c) The grass is never green
    d) Grass is greener under the sun

Answers:

  1. b) Feeling uncomfortable in an unfamiliar environment
  2. a) Working late into the night
  3. b) Don’t worry about things that have already happened and can’t be changed
  4. b) There’s something positive even in difficult situations
  5. b) Facing a difficult situation with courage
  6. b) Forming opinions based on appearances is unfair
  7. b) When you’re curious about what they’re thinking
  8. b) An obvious and significant issue that everyone is avoiding or ignoring
  9. b) Keep something valuable while trying to get rid of something unwanted
  10. b) People often believe other people’s situations are better than their own

Conclusion

Idioms for culture offer us a glimpse into the unique perspectives and values of different societies. They are like linguistic windows that allow us to understand the collective wisdom, customs, and social dynamics that shape our world.

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