Idioms (M)

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made of money
(usually: ‘not made of money’)
to be so rich that you can afford anything

– examples

“Go buy your own! I’m not made of money!”

make money hand over fist
to continuously make a lot of money from an idea of project

– examples

Ever since he left his office job and went into business by himself, he has been making money hand-over-fist.

make a killing
make a great deal of money from an idea or project

– examples

He made a killing on some business idea out east, then came home looking to find the girl he left behind.

“If everything goes to plan, and with a little bit of luck, we should make a killing off this.”

make a mint
to make a lot of money from an idea of project

– examples

They’re making a mint selling second hand books to students. I wish I had thought of that.

make a meal of (something)
1. to make something far harder than it should be; to make a mess of an easy task
2. to exaggerate a small injury or insult

– examples

“Dave is making a complete meal out of setting up his shelves. It shouldn’t be that hard.”

He has a bad habit of making a meal out of every tackle: it seems that every 5 minutes he is rolling on the floor crying.

“I think you are making a bit of a meal of this. I only said I didn’t like your new haircut, not that I think you are ugly.”

make a pig's ear of (something)
to make a big mess of an easy task

– examples

Anna has never asked Dave to help her with DIY since he made a pig’s ear out of decorating the nursery.

“Can you have a look at this for me? I’m afraid I’m making a pig’s ear out of it.”

make ends meet
to survive; to make sure the money coming in equals the money being spent

They have been struggling to make ends meet ever since Dave lost his job at the shoe factory.

“I’m not sure if I will be able to make ends meet next month. So if you know of any work, let me know. I’ll do anything.”

make headway
make progress

– examples

The city council has made good headway in getting the new subway line designed and ready to open. Hopefully it will be finished early next year.

“It hasn’t been a good start, but I think now we are making some headway.”

make or break
the moment in which a project succeeds of fails

– examples

“This next project is make or break for Dave. The bosses have wanted to fire him for a while, but if he can succeed in this one they will probably keep him.

make (your) blood boil
make you very angry

– examples

“Every time I see him with her it makes my blood boil. I can’t believe he stole my girlfriend.”

make (your) flesh crawl
(also: ‘make (your) skin crawl’)
make you scared, or feel uncomfortable, creepy and disgusted

– examples

Whenever I see a rich old man marrying a young 20-year old, it makes my skin crawl.

make (your) toes curl
make you very embarrassed, or disgusted

– examples

Watching Dave try to chat to women made Phil’s toes curl. It was horrible to watch.

make (yourself) scarce
make yourself difficult to see; make people not notice you are there
(can also be used for ‘go away for a while’)

– examples

A good PA knows when to fight for a client’s needs, and when to make him/herself scarce.

“When the bosses come here, make yourself scarce: the last thing I want is for them to see you here.”

man's best friend
a dog

– examples

Dave was happy in his retirement: a nice house, a wonderful wife, and man’s best friend to walk with him each morning next to the river.

“Why do you need a wife, when you have man’s best friend: Loyal, trusting, and incapable of talking?”

(a) man of letters
an intellectual person who enjoys reading and writing

– examples

In the past there were great writers, great men of letters who thought carefully about deep topics. Now there are a thousand books about people falling in love with vampires.

“When I retire I would like to become a man of letters, sitting at my window in an old house in the countryside.”

a man's man
(often jokingly) a man who can do ‘masculine’ things well, and is therefore respected by other men.

– examples

Dave enjoys knitting, and last week, for his birthday, he invited everyone to the ice dancing. I wouldn’t say he is a man’s man.

“Ha, you won’t find me doing girly things like yoga! I’m a man’s man. I like to get my exercise outside, hiking up mountains, cutting down trees, fighting bears…”

(the) man upstairs

– examples

Before he died, Phil tried to make peace with the man upstairs. We only hope he was successful.

(the) man on the street
the average person

– examples

Over the last decade the man on the street has lost faith in both politics and business.

major league
(used as an adjective)
an important or serious example of its kind

– examples

It was a major league decision, and Dave only hoped he had chosen the right path.

“I’m tired of Dave. He seems like a major league pain the ass.”

make a monkey of (someone)
embarrass someone; make a fool out of someone

– examples

If there was one thing Anna enjoyed, it was making a monkey out of the boys who wanted to date her. She would pretend she was interested, and then crush them.

“I’m OK teaching the class, but I am not going to stand here while you make a monkey out of me. I am a teacher, not a clown!”

mark my words
(spoken) “Remember I am saying this, because this is going to be important in the future.”

– examples

“You may laugh now, but mark my words, in a year you’ll be begging me for a job.”

(a) marked man
a person others are watching, want to get, or want to hurt

– examples

Ever since he scored 3 against United, he has become a marked man. Nobody is going to be surprised by anything he does now.

The President has become something of a marked man since he annoyed congress and the public with his tax reform package. I think it will be very difficult for him to get decisions done in the future

many moons ago
a long time ago

– examples

“I was a great player once, but that was many moons ago.”

a matter of life and death
something of great importance; something that, if it fails, will mean ruin

– examples

“I don’t know why you are so angry about me spilling some wine on your trousers. I know it is annoying, but it is hardly a matter of life and death.”

“Take this letter to the general, and do not delay. It is a matter of life and death.” [

May-December romance
a romance between an old person and a younger person

– examples

The celebrity magazine had another article about the May-December romance between the two actors. Most people don’t think it will last, and it is just a publicity stunt.

Most people don’t like the idea of a May-December romance, but if one person is looking for security, and the other excitement, why should they not try it?

money burning a hole in (my) pocket
money that you feel you have to spend; money you want to urgently spend, not save

– examples

Dave’s job pays him well, but every pay day he finds he suddenly has money burning a hole in his pocket, and by the end of the week he has spent it all.

“My parents gave me a $100 note last week, ever since when it has been burning a hole in my pocket.”

money for old rope
making good money for doing nothing; making money from copying old, unoriginal ideas

– examples

Many people say that working on the board of a university is money for old rope – what do these people actually do?

money laundering
‘washing money’; making money got through crime into ‘clean’ money

– examples

Money-laundering is a crime, but a difficult one to spot.

He was convicted of money-laundering, using his casino as a way to pass his drug money into his accounts.

money talks
when a big decision is being made, the one that results in the most money will win

– examples

“I’m afraid, on this matter, money talks. Your idea is very nice, but we have to go with the biggest offer. Sorry.”

money to burn
have a lot of extra money

– examples

They told Dave to talk to Anna about her investing in his company; after all, she always seemed to have money to burn.

“I’m afraid I can’t go on holiday at the moment. I don’t really have any money to burn.”

monkey see, monkey do
(spoken) children copy the actions of people they see

– examples

“The kids stealing is just a case of monkey see, monkey do: they get it from their father.”

moot point
a point that would be debatable, except that something more important has stopped the debate being useful

– examples

“Hawaii or the Seychelles? Both would be great, but it’s a moot point: I have to work.”

(the) moral high ground
the belief that one argument is morally superior to another, even if the other is more likely to be chosen

– examples

“The one thing about you is you always take the moral high ground. I don’t think you would do anything evil, no matter how much money I offered.”

(have) a mountain to climb
have a lot of work to do in order to be successful
(often used after something has made success even more difficult)

– examples

United have just scored again. Now City have mountain to climb.

move Heaven and Earth
to do anything and everything in order to achieve something.

– example

He promised her he would move Heaven and Earth for her if she married him.

move the goalposts
to change the definition of success

– examples

I’m tired of them always moving the goalposts: at first they said I only needed to improve the finances; then they said I had to double the profits. Now I have to make us the number one company in the sector.

mover and shaker
important person who get things done (especially in the arts or business)

– examples

The party was filled with the city’s movers and shakers: artists, musicians, business leaders and even the mayor.

much ado about nothing
a lot of fuss or excitement about nothing important

– examples

The whole scandal was much ado about nothing: he only met her for coffee, once, and nothing happened. The rest was the newspapers inventing a story.

mum's the word
(spoken) “Don’t worry, I’ll keep it secret” / “Please keep it a secret”

– examples

“Don’t worry, I won’t tell her. Mum’s the word.”

mummy's boy
a boy / man who is still like a child; a boy / man who still listens to his mother more than making his own decisions

– examples

“Dave is alright, but a bit of a mummy’s boy. He needs to grow up a bit.”

music to (my) ears
(often spoken) ‘That is great to hear!”

– examples

The exams being delayed for an extra month was music to his ears; he needed more time to study, otherwise he would surely fail.

“She wants to see me? That’s music to my ears.”

mutton dressed as lamb
a middle-aged or old person (usually a woman) who is trying to dress like a young person

– examples

“Phil’s mum is a bit embarrassing: she still gets drunk twice a week, and her clothes make her look like mutton dressed as lamb.”