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Most literature students still ask themselves the question, what is an idiom? The question is pretty simple to answer as it goes back to the basic roots of the English classes. Understanding the idioms is not a difficult task, and it does not require you to go through a complete trial to take old English classes again. However, it is important that you understand how to present idioms in your English assignments. We are going to focus on that particular aspect today and tell you about idioms.

We will tell you about it in terms of what is an idiom in figurative language. You will be able to understand the meaning of idioms in a way that will reflect in your assignment. The use of idioms is simple and effective when done correctly. You have to make sure that you are using the appropriate idiom and representing it correctly in your assignment. Let’s dive in to learn about idioms without further ado! Or better, we shall say in the ways of idiom - “let’s dive into the deep end of the pool and see where the current takes us!”

Major Characteristics of Idioms

What is Idiom?

So, what is an idiom, after all? Idiom is a figurative language that uses imaginative words and sentence structures to convey an idea or emotions in a simple way. It is a form of expression that helps people understand something in a witty manner. The use of idioms combines different words and phrases that make a figurative expression. Mind you - it is a “figurative” language that deals with vivid and abstract imagery to convey the main thought. When you interpret the meaning of an idiom straightforwardly, it will mean something else than what is intended by the original person.

Read More: What is Figurative Language? Explore Metaphors, Similes & More

Other Figurative Expressions Like Idioms

What is an idiom in literature is a figure of expression, and that is all. There are other figurative expressions that are similar in application to the idioms. These different expressions work in the same way as idioms do. They add a certain level of depth and vibrancy to the particular thought being conveyed. The different types of figurative expressions include:


These expressions convey abstract ideas and emotions by relating them with a familiar concept(s). It compares two seemingly unrelated subjects without using “like” or “as”.


Similar to what is an idiom, similes too are figurative language that make comparisons like metaphors. However, unlike metaphors, similies use “like” or “as” to directly compare the two subjects.


Proverbs are very similar to idioms as they offer an insight into some wisdom or meaningful experience of life. These are short, traditional sayings that often possess a deeper meaning or a cultural value in a concise manner.


Cliches are expressions of general life that have lost their meaning or impact due to frequent repetition and overuse. Taking into account what is an idiom in figurative language, these expressions are ostensibly obsolete and unoriginal to include in your writing but can be used in some exceptions.


Analogy is a figurative language that is more analytical in nature than any other form of figurative language. These expressions draw comparisons between two subjects to highlight similarities by using related scenarios.

The Major Characteristics of Idioms

As discussed earlier, an idiom is a figurative language or expression that provides a meaning to the reader beyond the literal meaning of the individual words in a phrase. However, the important question is what idiom holds as an individual expression that makes it stand out from other expressions. As explained by an expert academic writer, the major characteristics of idioms are:

Different Meaning than Literal Translation

Idioms can convey meaning entirely differently from the literal meaning of the words used in a famous phrase. For example - “break a leg” is used to wish someone good luck and/or perform at their best calibre. It does not encourage anyone to break someone’s leg and fracture a limb.

Culturally Specific and Reflecting a Society

As aforementioned, idioms can have an element of meaning rooted in a culture. In some cultures, idioms are used to refer to their particular beliefs, values and customs. A particular social group might not know what is an idiom, but they instinctively use and create it. For example - “Que será, será” is a Spanish idiom that is often used in Hispanic culture to encourage people to accept uncertainty. In English, it translates as “whatever will be, will be”.

Widely Used in Everyday Speech and Writing

Idioms are used by people from all walks of life, even when they know that they are using them. These are used in everyday conversations and all sorts of writing, mainly creative. People familiar with different kinds of idioms are most likely to employ the idea of what is an idiom in figurative language. For example, “break the ice” is used to convey the ability to overcome shyness or awkwardness when initiating a conversation with someone or a group of people.

Wide Range of Expression and Allow Creativity

In different situations and even geographical locations, different idioms are used to convey different expressions. This range of idioms goes from common phrases to more complex idioms. This allows room for creativity to create new ones or modify existing idioms and add humour or more relativity. For example - “Putting Lipstick on a Pig” conveys the effort of making something unattractive visually appealing through superficial characterization. What is an idiom of this kind can be modified by people as - “putting a tuxedo on a cat” or “putting glitter on a rock”.

Ambiguity of Understanding Altering Interpretation

Since idioms are difficult to understand, the interpretation is open and can have multiple meanings to different people. This ambiguity can contribute to the richness and complexity of the writing process in your assignment. For example, a very famous idiom asks the readers, “Is the glass half empty or half full?”

“Hit the Ground Running”

The idiom used here is for you to convey the idea of starting writing your assignment with enthusiasm and keep it moving from the beginning. Using different idioms, even in different contexts, with different modes of expression can allow a rich presentation of your understanding. Get expert advice in writing your assignment with our literature review assignment help. When you opt for our assistance, you gain access to our other value-added benefits, including multiple revisions and digital resources. Signup now!

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Jacob is an erudite professional who has a strong command of the concepts involved in microeconomics and macroeconomics. Being a reputed economist in Australia for the last seven years, he provides online tutoring sessions to students worldwide. This is due to his love for teaching that he has always been available to cater to queries in different areas within the broad paradigm of economics. For the same reason, he has joined hands with My Assignment Services to provide expert consultation to students who find it challenging to deal with their university assignments.


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