27 Idioms for Mean: The Darker Side of Expression


Language is a vast ocean of words and phrases, some of which can paint vivid pictures of character and behavior.

In this listicle, we will delve into idioms for mean, expressions that describe not-so-friendly qualities in people. These idioms are like windows into the less savory aspects of human nature.

idioms for mean

What does an idiom for mean?

Idioms for mean are expressions that use figurative language to describe unkind, deceitful, or unpleasant behavior.

They help us convey complex ideas about someone’s character in a concise and colorful way. Let’s explore some of these idioms and their meanings.


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Created by Dr. Julia Rossi

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What is a simile?

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

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What is a metaphor?

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Which of the following is a metaphor?

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What is an idiom?

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What does the idiom “break the ice” mean?

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What is an adjective?

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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?

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What is a verb?

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

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

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Which of the following is an adjective?

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The abbreviation “NASA” stands for:

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

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What does the idiom “hit the books” mean?

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Which of the following sentences contains a simile?

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“LOL” is an abbreviation for:

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IdiomMeaningIn a Sentence
Cold-heartedUnfeeling and lacking compassion or empathy.She showed her cold-hearted nature when she ignored the plea for help.
Snake in the GrassSomeone who appears friendly but is deceitful and untrustworthy.Watch out for him; he’s a real snake in the grass.
Two-facedActing one way in front of someone and another way when they’re not around; being insincere.I can’t trust him; he’s two-faced and never says what he really means.
Wolf in Sheep’s ClothingSomeone who pretends to be harmless or innocent but has evil intentions.Be careful of that guy; he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Rotten to the CoreInherently bad or corrupt.The politician was exposed as being rotten to the core after the scandal.
Ice QueenSomeone who is emotionally distant, cold, or unfriendly.She might be successful, but she’s known as the office ice queen.
CutthroatRuthlessly competitive and willing to do anything to succeed.The business world can be cutthroat, with everyone striving to get ahead.
Dirty RatSomeone who betrays or informs on others, often in a sneaky way.He felt like a dirty rat for revealing their secret to the authorities.
Devil in DisguiseSomeone who appears harmless but has malicious intentions.She thought he was charming, but he turned out to be a devil in disguise.
BackstabberSomeone who betrays a friend or ally by secretly working against them.She couldn’t believe her so-called friend turned out to be such a backstabber.
Fair-Weather FriendSomeone who is only a friend when things are going well but disappears during tough times.He’s just a fair-weather friend; he’s never around when I need him.
Heart of StoneA complete lack of sympathy or compassion.Her heart of stone made it difficult for her to connect with others emotionally.
Bad EggA person who is fundamentally bad or corrupt.He may seem charming, but he’s a bad egg at heart.
Black SheepThe odd or disreputable member of a group or family.Amongst all the successful siblings, he was the black sheep of the family.
Sour GrapesPretending not to care about something that you actually desire but cannot have.His dismissal of the promotion as unimportant sounded like sour grapes.
SkinflintA person who is unwilling to spend money; very stingy.He’s such a skinflint; he never contributes to group expenses.
Tight-FistedSomeone who is unwilling to spend money or be generous.He’s known for being tight-fisted; he never buys drinks for anyone.
Penny-PincherSomeone who is extremely frugal and tries to save every penny.My dad is a real penny-pincher; he refuses to turn up the thermostat even in winter.
MiserlyExtremely stingy or avaricious.The miserly old man counted his pennies every night.
GrinchSomeone who dislikes or spoils the joy of others, especially during the holidays.Don’t be such a Grinch; let’s enjoy the holiday season!
ScroogeA miserly person who dislikes spending money.He’s a real Scrooge when it comes to buying gifts for others.
Nasty Piece of WorkSomeone who is unpleasant, difficult to deal with, or morally questionable.Dealing with her was a nightmare; she’s a nasty piece of work.
Mean as a SnakeExtremely mean or malicious.Be careful around him; he’s mean as a snake when he’s in a bad mood.
Stingy with ComplimentsSomeone who rarely praises or appreciates others.She’s always stingy with compliments, even when others do a great job.
Cruel IntentionsDeliberately intending to harm or hurt others.Her cruel intentions were revealed when she spread rumors about her classmates.
Vicious CircleA situation where one problem leads to another, creating a cycle of difficulties.The poverty in the neighborhood created a vicious circle of crime and despair.
Scheming and ConnivingPlanning and plotting in a secretive and often dishonest way.He’s always scheming and conniving to get ahead in his career.

Metaphors can describe someone as mean in various ways, like comparing them to a thorny cactus that pricks and hurts those who come too close. To explore more metaphors for mean, you can visit this link: Metaphors for Mean. Similarly, similes provide comparisons that make meanness more relatable, such as saying it’s as sharp as a knife’s edge. Discover additional similes for mean here: Similes for Mean.

Idioms for Mean

1. Cold-hearted

Meaning: Unfeeling and lacking compassion or empathy.

In a Sentence: She showed her cold-hearted nature when she ignored the plea for help.

2. Snake in the Grass

Meaning: Someone who appears friendly but is deceitful and untrustworthy.

In a Sentence: Watch out for him; he’s a real snake in the grass.

3. Two-faced

Meaning: Acting one way in front of someone and another way when they’re not around; being insincere.

In a Sentence: I can’t trust him; he’s two-faced and never says what he really means.

4. Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Meaning: Someone who pretends to be harmless or innocent but has evil intentions.

In a Sentence: Be careful of that guy; he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

5. Rotten to the Core

Meaning: Inherently bad or corrupt.

In a Sentence: The politician was exposed as being rotten to the core after the scandal.

6. Ice Queen

Meaning: Someone who is emotionally distant, cold, or unfriendly.

In a Sentence: She might be successful, but she’s known as the office ice queen.

7. Cutthroat

Meaning: Ruthlessly competitive and willing to do anything to succeed.

In a Sentence: The business world can be cutthroat, with everyone striving to get ahead.

8. Dirty Rat

Meaning: Someone who betrays or informs on others, often in a sneaky way.

In a Sentence: He felt like a dirty rat for revealing their secret to the authorities.

9. Devil in Disguise

Meaning: Someone who appears harmless but has malicious intentions.

In a Sentence: She thought he was charming, but he turned out to be a devil in disguise.

10. Backstabber

Meaning: Someone who betrays a friend or ally by secretly working against them.

In a Sentence: She couldn’t believe her so-called friend turned out to be such a backstabber.

11. Fair-Weather Friend

Meaning: Someone who is only a friend when things are going well but disappears during tough times.

In a Sentence: He’s just a fair-weather friend; he’s never around when I need him.

12. Heart of Stone

Meaning: A complete lack of sympathy or compassion.

In a Sentence: Her heart of stone made it difficult for her to connect with others emotionally.

13. Bad Egg

Meaning: A person who is fundamentally bad or corrupt.

In a Sentence: He may seem charming, but he’s a bad egg at heart.

14. Black Sheep

Meaning: The odd or disreputable member of a group or family.

In a Sentence: Amongst all the successful siblings, he was the black sheep of the family.

15. Sour Grapes

Meaning: Pretending not to care about something that you actually desire but cannot have.

In a Sentence: His dismissal of the promotion as unimportant sounded like sour grapes.

16. Skinflint

Meaning: A person who is unwilling to spend money; very stingy.

In a Sentence: He’s such a skinflint; he never contributes to group expenses.

17. Tight-Fisted

Meaning: Someone who is unwilling to spend money or be generous.

In a Sentence: He’s known for being tight-fisted; he never buys drinks for anyone.

18. Penny-Pincher

Meaning: Someone who is extremely frugal and tries to save every penny.

In a Sentence: My dad is a real penny-pincher; he refuses to turn up the thermostat even in winter.

19. Miserly

Meaning: Extremely stingy or avaricious.

In a Sentence: The miserly old man counted his pennies every night.

20. Grinch

Meaning: Someone who dislikes or spoils the joy of others, especially during the holidays.

In a Sentence: Don’t be such a Grinch; let’s enjoy the holiday season!

21. Scrooge

Meaning: A miserly person who dislikes spending money.

In a Sentence: He’s a real Scrooge when it comes to buying gifts for others.

22. Nasty Piece of Work

Meaning: A person who is unpleasant, difficult to deal with, or morally questionable.

In a Sentence: Dealing with her was a nightmare; she’s a nasty piece of work.

23. Mean as a Snake

Meaning: Extremely mean or malicious.

In a Sentence: Be careful around him; he’s mean as a snake when he’s in a bad mood.

24. Stingy with Compliments

Meaning: Someone who rarely praises or appreciates others.

In a Sentence: She’s always stingy with compliments, even when others do a great job.

25. Cruel Intentions

Meaning: Deliberately intending to harm or hurt others.

In a Sentence: Her cruel intentions were revealed when she spread rumors about her classmates.

26. Vicious Circle

Meaning: A situation where one problem leads to another, creating a cycle of difficulties.

In a Sentence: The poverty in the neighborhood created a vicious circle of crime and despair.

27. Scheming and Conniving

Meaning: Planning and plotting in a secretive and often dishonest way.

In a Sentence: He’s always scheming and conniving to get ahead in his career.

Quizzes About The Idioms in The Article

Quiz 1: Cold-Hearted and Beyond

  1. What does the idiom “Cold-hearted” describe?
    • A. A kind and compassionate person
    • B. Someone unfeeling and lacking compassion
    • C. A warm and loving individual
  2. In a sentence, how would you use “Cold-hearted”?

Quiz 2: Watch Out for Snakes

  1. What does the idiom “Snake in the Grass” mean?
    • A. Someone who is easy to trust
    • B. Someone who appears friendly but is deceitful
    • C. Someone who genuinely cares about others
  2. When might you warn someone about a “Snake in the Grass”?

Quiz 3: Double-Faced Dilemma

  1. What does the idiom “Two-faced” suggest about a person?
    • A. Being sincere and honest
    • B. Acting differently in front of someone and behind their back
    • C. Always speaking their mind
  2. Use “Two-faced” in a sentence.

Quiz 4: Beware of the Disguised

  1. What does the expression “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” describe?
    • A. Someone who genuinely cares for others
    • B. Someone who appears harmless but has malicious intentions
    • C. A person with a friendly demeanor
  2. When might you use the phrase “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing”?

Quiz 5: Uncovering the Core

  1. What does “Rotten to the Core” mean when describing someone?
    • A. Being fundamentally good-hearted
    • B. Having inherent bad qualities or corruption
    • C. Being honest and straightforward
  2. Give an example of a situation where someone could be described as “Rotten to the Core.”

Quiz 6: The Ice Queen’s Chill

  1. What character trait does the idiom “Ice Queen” signify?
    • A. Warm and friendly
    • B. Emotionally distant and cold
    • C. Easygoing and approachable
  2. In what context might you refer to someone as an “Ice Queen”?

Quiz 7: Navigating Cutthroat Waters

  1. What does it mean to be “Cutthroat”?
    • A. Compassionate and caring
    • B. Ruthlessly competitive and willing to do anything to succeed
    • C. Easygoing and relaxed
  2. How would you describe a cutthroat business environment?

Quiz 8: The Dirty Rat’s Deception

  1. What does the idiom “Dirty Rat” refer to?
    • A. Someone who is very clean and organized
    • B. Someone who betrays or informs on others secretly
    • C. A trustworthy and loyal friend
  2. When might you use the term “Dirty Rat” to describe someone?

Quiz 9: Unmasking the Devil

  1. What is the meaning of the expression “Devil in Disguise”?
    • A. A truly evil person
    • B. Someone who appears harmless but has malicious intentions
    • C. A person with good intentions
  2. Provide an example of when you might use “Devil in Disguise.”

Quiz 10: Recognizing Backstabbers

  1. What characterizes a “Backstabber”?
    • A. Someone who always supports their friends
    • B. A person who betrays a friend or ally secretly
    • C. Someone who is open and honest in their actions
  2. Share an experience where you encountered a “Backstabber.”

Feel free to use these quizzes to test your knowledge of idioms for mean!

Conclusion

Idioms for mean allow us to capture complex human behaviors and characteristics in just a few words. These expressions can help us describe people who may not always show the best side of human nature.

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