[ id-ee-uhm ]
See synonyms for: idiomidioms on

  1. an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements, as kick the bucket or hang one's head, or from the general grammatical rules of a language, as the table round for the round table, and that is not a constituent of a larger expression of like characteristics.

  2. a language, dialect, or style of speaking peculiar to a people.

  1. a construction or expression of one language whose parts correspond to elements in another language but whose total structure or meaning is not matched in the same way in the second language.

  2. the peculiar character or genius of a language.

  3. a distinct style or character, in music, art, etc.: the idiom of Bach.

Origin of idiom

First recorded in 1565–75; from Latin idiōma, from Greek idíōma “peculiarity, specific property,” equivalent to idiō- (variant stem of idioûsthai “to make one's own, appropriate,” verbal derivative of idiós;see idio-) + -ma noun suffix of result

synonym study For idiom

1. See phrase.

Words Nearby idiom Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use idiom in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for idiom


/ (ˈɪdɪəm) /

  1. a group of words whose meaning cannot be predicted from the meanings of the constituent words, as for example (It was raining) cats and dogs

  2. linguistic usage that is grammatical and natural to native speakers of a language

  1. the characteristic vocabulary or usage of a specific human group or subject

  2. the characteristic artistic style of an individual, school, period, etc

Origin of idiom

C16: from Latin idiōma peculiarity of language, from Greek; see idio-

Derived forms of idiom

  • idiomatic (ˌɪdɪəˈmætɪk) or idiomatical, adjective
  • idiomatically, adverb
  • idiomaticalness, noun

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for idiom


A traditional way of saying something. Often an idiom, such as “under the weather,” does not seem to make sense if taken literally. Someone unfamiliar with English idioms would probably not understand that to be “under the weather” is to be sick. (See examples under “Idioms.”)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.