American English Idiom Definition
An idiom is an expression whose meaning does not seem to
follow logically from the combination of the meaning of its
parts and the "rules of language."
Idioms are often classified as figures of speech.
Idioms are used extensively in American TV, movies, music,
literature, and in conversations among native English
American English Idiom Example
"hang in there"
She plans to "hang in there" even though
she is taking eight classes this semester.
The meaning of this idiom is to "continue despite
The words "hang in there" have completely
different meanings when separated.
hang - To fasten from above with no support
in - Within the limits, bounds, or area of.
there - At or in that place.
An Alternative English Idiom Definition
Idiom: a group of words
that means something different than the individual words
As with any language, American English is full of
idioms, especially when spoken. Idioms add color and
texture to language by creating images that convey
meanings beyond those of the individual words that make
them up. Idioms are culturally bound, providing insight
into the history, culture, and outlook of their users.
This is because most idioms have developed over time
from practices, beliefs, and other aspects of different
cultures. As a culture changes, the words used to
describe it also change: some idioms fall out of use and
others develop to replace them. With idioms in
particular, the beliefs or practices leading to their
use may disappear while the idiom itself continues to be
used. Idioms can be so overused that they become
clichés; or they can become slang or jargon, expressions
used mainly by specific groups or professions.
Idioms can be complimentary or insulting. They can
express a wide range of emotions from excitement to
depression, love to hate, heroism to cowardice, and
anything in between. Idioms are also used to express a
sense of time, place, or size. The range of uses for
idioms is complex and widespread.
The complexity of idioms is what makes them so difficult
for non-native speakers to learn. However, this
complexity is also what can make idioms so interesting
to study and learn; they are rarely boring. Learning
about idioms, in this case those used in the United
States, provides a way to learn not only the language,
but a little about the people who use it.