British and American Idioms

Research Paper (postgraduate) 2010 11 Pages

Didactics - English - Grammar, Style, Working Technique


Table of Contents


What an idiom is

Understanding and using of idioms

Idioms reflecting events of the 17th century

Idioms referring to the 18th century

Idioms to the 19th century

Idioms referring to the 20th century

Differences between American English and BritishEnglish

Influence of the American English on the world of idioms




People use idioms to express something that other words do not express as clearly or as cleverly. Often they use an image or symbol to describe something as clearly as possible and that make our point as effectively as possible.

An idiom is a group of words which, when used together, has a different meaning from the one which the individual words have. Many idioms are colourful and curious, and their origins are impossible to trace.

Sometimes idioms are very difficult to understand. Some people may be able to guess the meaning from context but if not, it is not easy to know the meaning. Many idioms, for instance, come from favourite traditional British and American activities such as fighting, sailing, hunting and playing games. As well as being quite specialist in meaning, some of the words in idioms were used two or three hundred years ago, or longer.

Idioms often cause serious difficulties even with people, who know English very well, so if people want to know better English they need to learn idioms. It is best to learn idioms as you do vocabulary. In other words, select and actively learn idioms which will be useful to you. Write the idiom in a relevant and practical sentence so that you will be able to remember its meaning easily.

In nowadays people have difficulties with the notion of idioms, because idioms are divided of British English and American English idioms and they have different meaning.

The Aim : to understand and to know difference between British English and American English idioms

Research questions of the Paper are:

1. What an idiom is?
2. How idioms are used ?
3. What's the history of English idioms?
4. Difference between British and American idioms?

What an idiom is

The English language is one of the most difficult languages to learn as a second language. In part, this difficulty is caused by all of the idioms that exist in the language. Idioms are passed down through tradition, culture, and history. Individuals whose primary language is English are able to understand these terms.

The definition of an idiom is a construction of words or a phrase that means something different than what the words are literally saying. (Rakoczy, 1996)

El Kurd ( 2008) writes that idioms almost always originate in our spoken language, and find acceptance there long before they "find their way" into our written language.

Idioms use to express something that other words do not express as clearly or as cleverly. Often people use an image or symbol to describe something as clearly as possible and thus make our point as effectively as possible. For example, "in a nutshell" suggests the idea of having all the information contained within very few words. Idioms tend to be informal and are best used in spoken rather than written English.

The author’s opinion is that usually idioms help us express ourselves. The English language is full of idioms (over 15,000). Idioms give a language color, character and variety they can also make a language very difficult to understand, especially for new speakers.

One characteristic of idioms is that the meaning of an idiom is always metaphorical rather than literal. And another characteristic is that the grammatical form of an idiom is invariable and fixed. Idioms vary a great deal on how metaphorical and invariable they are. In other words, idiomaticity (the quality of being idiomatic) is a matter of degree or scale. Idioms can be considered as expressions. They are phrases which over a period of time come to mean something more than the combined meanings of the individual words.



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idioms english idioms




Title: British and American Idioms