English Expressions: Food Idioms and Sayings in English

English Expressions: Food Idioms and Sayings in English

An idiom is a word, phrase, or expression that cannot be taken literally because the meaning is figurative. Idioms are a form of expression peculiar to a language. The English language has many idioms that mention food. The following sections provide definitions of some common English idioms and proverbs that include fruit, vegetables, baked goods, meats, dairy, and other foods.

Fruit Idioms

The following English idioms figuratively use some sort of fruit, usually to describe something negative but occasionally something positive.

apple of someone’s eye – the object of a person’s affection or regard; a greatly cherished person or thing
apple polisher – a person who attempts to gain favor through flattery
bad apple – a troublesome or despicable person; a negative or corrupting influence on others
Big Apple – New York City
to compare apples to oranges – used as the type of two things that are inherently different or incompatible, usually in contexts implying that a given comparison is invalid
How do you like them apples? – a jeer or taunt, implying that the thing referred to will be unwelcome
The apple never falls far from the tree. – a person inevitably shares traits with or resembles his or her parents or family
to upset the apple cart – to ruin a plan or event by surprise or accident

to go bananas – go crazy, mad, or wild with excitement, anger, frustration, or another strong emotion
to drive bananas – to cause to go crazy, mad, or wild with excitement, anger, frustration, or another strong emotion

Life is just a bowl of cherries. – proverb meaning that life is easy and uncomplicated

sour grapes – when a person is heard to disparage something which it is suspected he would be glad to possess if he could; expressing complaints or accusations because someone is jealous

Vegetable Idioms

The following English idioms use vegetables figuratively to describe both good and bad actions and things.

to not know beans – to not to know something; to be not well informed
to spill the beans – to reveal a secret or talk about something private

carrot and stick – an enticement, a promised or expected reward

cool as a cucumber – relaxed and non-emotional, not anxious

olive branch – something offer in peace or goodwill

like two peas in a pod – two things that are very similar; extremely similar; indistinguishable

in a pickle – a tight spot or difficult situation

couch potato – a very lazy person; someone who does not engage in a lot of physical activity
hot potato – a very sensitive and controversial subject; something that is difficult to deal with

Baked Good Idioms

The figurative use of baked goods like cookies, cakes, and pies often result in humorous sayings as in these English idioms.

to have a bun in the oven – to be pregnant

to butter one’s bread on both sides – to be wasteful or luxurious
to butter someone up – to flatter someone, especially if you want to obtain something

nutty as fruitcake – crazy
a piece of cake – something easy or pleasant
to sell like hot cakes – to sell quickly or in large quantities
to take the cake – to carry off the honors, rank first; often used ironically or as an expression of surprise
You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. – proverb meaning you can’t have it both ways

one sharp cookie – someone who is not easily fooled or deceived
one tough cookie – someone who is self-confident and ambitious and will do what is necessary to achieve what they want
That’s the way the cookie crumbles. – that is how the position resolves itself; that is the way it is

to eat humble pie – to be humbled, to admit one’s errors
finger in the pie – to participate in something that is happening
as easy as pie – something that is very easy

icing on the cake – an extra benefit that makes a good situation even better

to have pudding in the oven – to be pregnant
The proof is in the pudding. – a phrase that means that the quality of something can only be shown by putting it to its intended use
not worth a pudding – of little or no worth

Meat Idioms

The following English idioms figuratively use meat to describe someone or something negative, although a few are positive idioms.

to bring home the bacon – to succeed in an undertaking; to achieve success; to earn a living for a family
to save one’s bacon – to escape injury to one’s body, to keep oneself from harm

to eat crow – to admit one is mistaken or defeated, to take back a mistaken statement; to be forced to do something extremely disagreeable and humiliating

bad egg – someone who cannot be trusted; a bad person; a person or a scheme that disappoints expectation
to break the egg in somebody’s pocket – to spoil somebody’s plan
to egg on – to incite, encourage, urge on; to provoke, tempt
to have all your eggs in one basket – to risk all one’s property on a single venture; to depend on one plan
to have egg on one’s face – to be made to look foolish; to be embarrassed or humiliated by the turn of events
to tread on eggs – to walk warily, as on delicate ground

ham – an inexpert performed; a show-off

Dairy Idioms

The figurative use of dairy products like cheese and milk often result in humorous sayings as in these English idioms.

to believe that the moon is made of green cheese – to be gullible; to be easily persuaded
big cheese – a person who has a lot of power and influence in an organization; an important or self-important person
cheesed off – annoyed or irritated
to cut the cheese – to pass gas, to fart

It’s no use crying over spilled milk. – it is futile to regret what cannot be altered or undone
milk and honey – prosperity and abundance; richness of produce; plenty, comfort
milk for babes – nourishment appropriate only to the earliest stages of development
the milk in the coconut – a puzzling fact or circumstance; a crux
milk of human kindness – care and compassion for others; humanity
to milk – to deprive or defraud by taking regular amounts over a period of time; to exploit
to milk dry – to drain completely of resources; to exploit exhaustively
to milk the bull – to engage in an enterprise doomed to failure

Other Food Idioms

The following English idioms use other foods figuratively to describe both good and bad things.

cream of the crop – the best of a group, the top choice

gravy train – a job or work that pays more than it is worth

to rub salt in one’s wounds – to behave or speak to someone so as to aggravate a hurt already inflicted
salt of the earth – a person or persons of great worthiness, reliability, honesty
to take something with a grain of salt – to accept a statement with a certain amount of reserve; to doubt the accuracy of some information
to be worth one’s salt – to be efficient or capable; often as ‘not to be worth one’s salt’
to make one’s mouth water – to be delicious or appetizing

someone’s cup of tea – something that someone enjoys or does well

Idioms are words, phrases, and expressions whose meanings are figurative instead of literal. These English idioms that mention fruits, vegetables, baked goods, meats, dairy products, and other foods are popular and common phrases in the English language.

For more English idioms, see English Expressions: Weather Idioms and Sayings in English.

Using Possessive Determiners as Determinatives

Using Possessive Determiners as Determinatives

Using Relative Pronouns as Determinatives

Using Relative Pronouns as Determinatives