208+ List of Idioms Starting with C | Idioms with Meaning

An idiom is a phrase or expression that typically presents a figurative, non-literal meaning attached to the phrase. Some phrases which become figurative idioms, however, do retain the phrase’s literal meaning.

Categorized as formulaic language, an idiom’s figurative meaning is different from the literal meaning.

Here are the list some of the Idioms starting with C:

Idioms Starting With C

Sr. No.IdiomsMeaning
1Cake’s not worth the candleIf someone says that the cake’s not worth the candle, they mean that the result will not be worth the effort put in to achieve it.
2Calf lickA calf lick is the weird parting in your fringe where your hair grows in a different direction, usually to one side.
3Call a spade a spadeA person who calls a spade a spade is one speaks frankly and makes little or no attempt to conceal their opinions or to spare the feelings of their audience.
4Call it a dayIf you call it a day, you stop doing something for a while, normally at least until the following day.
5Call on the carpetIf you are called on the carpet, you are summoned for a reprimand by superiors or others in power.
6Call the dogs offIf someone calls off their dogs, they stop attacking or criticizing someone.
7Call the shotsIf you call the shots, you are in charge and tell people what to do.
8Call the tuneThe person who calls the tune makes the important decisions about something.
9Calm before the stormA calm time immediately before period of violent activity or argument is the calm before the storm.
10Can of wormsIf an action can create serious problems, it is opening a can of worms.
11Can’t dance and it’s too wet to plowWhen you can’t dance and it’s too wet to plow, you may as well do something because you can’t or don’t have the opportunity to do anything else.
12Can’t do it for toffeeIf you can’t so something for toffee, you are incapable of doing something properly or to any sort of standard.
13Can’t hack itUnable to perform an act, duty, job etc. (example: I have to quit my job as a computer technician; I just can’t hack it.)
14Can’t hold a candleIf something can’t hold a candle to something else, it is much worse.
15Can’t see the forest for its treesIf someone can’t see the forest for its trees, they are too focused on specific details to see the picture as a whole.
16Canary in a coal mineA canary in a coal mine is an early warning of danger.
17Card up your sleeveIf you have a card up your sleeve, you have a surprise plan or idea that you are keeping back until the time is right.
18CarpetbaggerA carpetbagger is an opportunist without any scruples or ethics, or a politician who wants to represent a place they have no connection with.
19Carrot and stickIf someone offers a carrot and stick, they offer an incentive to do something combined with the threat of punishment.
20Carry the canIf you carry the can, you take the blame for something, even though you didn’t do it or are only partly at fault.

21Carry the dayIf something carries the day, it wins a battle (the sense is that the battle has been long and could have gone either way) or competition for supremacy.
22Case by caseIf things are done case by case, each situation or issue is handled separately on its own merits and demerits.
23Case in pointMeaning an instance of something has just occurred that was previously discussed. For instance, a person may have told another that something always happens. Later that day, they see it happening, and the informer might say, ‘case in point’.
24Cash cowA product, business, etc, that generates a continuous flow of money or a high proportion of overall profits is a cash cow.
25Cash in your chipsIf you cash in your chips, you sell something to get what profit you can because you think its value is going to fall. It can also mean ‘to die’.
26Cast a long shadowSomething or someone that casts a long shadow has considerable influence on other people or events.
27Cast aspersionIf you cast aspersion, you try to blacken someone’s name and make people think badly of them.
28Cast doubt onIf you make other people not sure about a matter, then you have cast doubt on it.
29Cast iron stomachA person with a cast iron stomach can eat or drink anything without any ill effects.
30Cast pearls before swineIf you cast pearls before swine, you offer something of value to someone who doesn’t appreciate it- ‘swine’ are ‘pigs’.
31Cast sheep’s eyes at If you cast sheep’s eyes at at someone, you look lovingly or with longing at them.
32Cast your mind backIf somebody tells you to cast your mind back on something, they want you to think about something that happened in the past, but which you might not remember very well, and to try to remember as much as possible.
33Cast your net widelyIf you cast your net widely, you use a wide range of sources when trying to find something.
34Casting voteThe casting vote is a vote given to a chairman or president that is used when there is a deadlock.
35Castles in the airPlans that are impractical and will never work out are castles in the air.
36Cat among the pigeonsIf something or someone puts, or sets or lets, the cat among the pigeons, they create a disturbance and cause trouble.
37Cat and dog lifeIf people lead a cat and dog life, they are always arguing.
38Cat burglarA cat burglar is a skillful thief who breaks into places without disturbing people or setting off alarms.
39Cat fur and kitty britchesWhen I used to ask my grandma what was for dinner, she would say ‘cat fur and kitty britches’. This was her Ozark way of telling me that I would get what she cooked. (Ozark is a region in the center of the United States)
40Cat got your tongue?If someone asks if the cat has got your tongue, they want to know why you are not speaking when they think you should.

41Cat nap If you have a short sleep during the day, you are cat napping.
42Cat’s lickA cat’s lick is a very quick wash.
43Cat’s pajamas Something that is the cat’s pajamas is excellent.
44Cat’s whiskersSomething excellent is the cat’s whiskers.
45Catch as catch canThis means that people should try to get something any way they can.
46Catch hellIf you catch hell, you get into trouble or get scolded. (‘Catch heck’ is also used.)
47Catch some z’sIf you catch some z’s, you get some sleep.
48Catch someone red-handed If someone is caught red-handed, they are found doing something wrong or illegal.
49Catch-22Catch-22 is a situation where conflicting rules make the desired outcome impossible. It comes from a novel by the American author Joseph Heller, in which pilots would not have to fly missions if they were mentally ill, but not wanting to fly dangerous missions was held to be proof of sanity, so they had to fly anyway. (‘Catch 22’, without the hyphen, is also used.)
50Caught with your hand in the cookie jarIf someone is caught with his or her hand in the cookie jar, he or she is caught doing something wrong.
51Chalk and cheeseThings, or people, that are like chalk and cheese are very different and have nothing in common.
52Champ at the bitIf someone is champing at the bit, they are very eager to accomplish something. (‘Chomping at the bit’ is also used.)
53Champagne taste on a beer budget Someone who lives above their means and likes things they cannot afford has champagne taste on a beer budget.
54Change horses in midstreamIf people change horses in midstream, they change plans or leaders when they are in the middle of something, even though it may be very risky to do so.
55Change of heartIf you change the way you think or feel about something, you have a change of heart.
56Change tackIf you change tack, you use a different method for dealing with something.
57Change your tuneIf someone changes their ideas or the way they talk about them, they change their tune.
58Chaps my ass When something/someone really annoys you, it chaps your ass.
59Chapter and verseWhen you know something very well, and can quote it, you know it chapter and verse.
60Charity begins at homeThis idiom means that family members are more important than anyone else, and should be the focus of a person’s efforts.

61Chase rainbowsIf someone chases rainbows, they try to do something that they will never achieve.
62Chase your tailIf you are chasing your tail, you are very busy but not being very productive.
63Cheap as chips If something is very inexpensive, it is as cheap as chips.
64Cheap at half the price If something’s cheap at half the price, it’s very cheap indeed.
65Cheap shotA cheap shot is an unprincipled criticism.
66Cheat deathIf someone cheats death, they narrowly avoid a major problem or accident.
67Cheek by jowlIf things or people are cheek by jowl, they are very close together.
68Cherry pickIf people cherry pick, they choose things that support their position, while ignoring things that contradict it.
69Chew on a boneIf someone is chewing on a bone, he or she is thinking about something intently.
70Chew the cud If you chew the cud, you think carefully about something.
71Chew the fat If you chew the fat with someone, you talk at leisure with them.
72ChickenfeedIf something is small or unimportant, especially money, it is chickenfeed.
73Child’s playIf something is child’s play, it is very easy and simple.
74Chinese wallsChinese walls are regulatory information barriers that aim to stop the flow of information that could be misused, especially in financial corporations.
75Chinese whispersWhen a story is told from person to person, especially if it is gossip or scandal, it inevitably gets distorted and exaggerated. This process is called Chinese whispers.
76Chip off the old block If someone is a chip off the old block, they closely resemble one or both of the parents in character.
77Chip on your shoulderIf someone has a chip on their shoulder, they are resentful about something and feel that they have been treated badly.
78Chop and changeIf things chop and change, they keep changing, often unexpectedly.
79Cigarette paperIf you cannot get or put a cigarette paper between people, they are so closely bonded that nothing will separate them or their positions on issues.
80Circle the wagonsIf you circle the wagons, you stop communicating with people who don’t think the same way as you to avoid their ideas. It can also mean to bring everyone together to defend a group against an attack.

81Circling the drainIf someone is circling the drain, they are very near death and have little time to live. The phrase can also describe a project or plan or campaign that that is on the brink of failure.
82Class act Someone who’s a class act is exceptional in what they do.
83Clean as a whistle If something is as clean as a whistle, it is extremely clean, spotless. It can also be used to mean ‘completely’, though this meaning is less common nowadays. If somebody is clean as a whistle, they are not involved in anything illegal.
84Clean bill of healthIf something or someone has a clean bill of health, then there’s nothing wrong; everything’s fine.
85Clean breakIf you make a clean break, you break away completely from something.
86Clean handsSomeone with clean hands, or who keeps their hands clean, is not involved in illegal or immoral activities.
87Clean sheet When someone has a clean sheet, they have got no criminal record or problems affecting their reputation. In football and other sports, a goalkeeper has a clean sheet when let no goals in.
88Clean slateIf you start something with a clean slate, then nothing bad from your past is taken into account.
89Clean sweepIf someone makes a clean sweep, they win absolutely everything in a competition or contest.
90Clean your clockIf you clean your clock, you beat someone decisively in a contest or fight.
91Clear as a bell If something is as clear as a bell, it is very clear or easy to understand.
92Clear as mudIf something is as clear as mud, then it is very confusing and unclear.
93Cliffhanger If something like a sports match or an election is a cliffhanger, then the result is so close that it cannot be predicted and will only be known at the very end.
94Climb on the bandwagonWhen people climb on the bandwagon they do something because it is popular and everyone else is doing it.
95Climb the greasy poleAdvance within an organization – especially in politics.
96Cling to hopeIf people cling to hope, they continue to hope though the chances of success are very small.
97Close at handIf something is close at hand, it is nearby or conveniently located.
98Close but no cigarIf you are close but no cigar, you are close to success, but have not got there.
99Close callIf the result of something is a close call, it is almost impossible to distinguish between the parties involved and to say who has won or whatever. It can also mean that you very nearly have a serious accident or get into trouble.
100Close shaveIf you have a close shave, you very nearly have a serious accident or get into trouble.

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101Close the stable door after the horse has boltedIf people try to fix something after the problem has occurred, they are trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted. ‘Close the barn door after the horse has bolted’ is alternative, often used in American English.
102Close to your heartIf something is close to your heart, you care a lot about it. (‘Dear to your heart’ is an alternative.)
103Closed book to meIf a subject is a closed book to you, it is something that you don’t understand or know anything about.
104Cloth earsIf you don’t listen to people, they may suggest you have cloth ears.
105Cloud cuckoo land If someone has ideas or plans that are completely unrealistic, they are living on cloud cuckoo land.
106Cloud nineIf you are on cloud nine, you are extremely happy. (‘cloud seven’ is a less common alternative)
107Cloud of suspicionIf a cloud of suspicion hangs over an individual, it means that they are not believed or are distrusted.
108Cloud on the horizonIf you can see a problem ahead, you can call it a cloud on the horizon.
109Clutch at strawsIf someone is in serious trouble and tries anything to help them, even though their chances of success are probably nil, they are clutching at straws.
110Clutch playIf an activity is referred to as a clutch play, it means that the activity was the key to the success or failure of the venture. For instance, a clutch play in a baseball game may be striking out a batter with the bases loaded.
111Coals to NewcastleTaking, bringing, or carrying coals to Newcastle is doing something that is completely unnecessary.
112Coast is clear When the coast is clear, the people supposed to be watching you are not there and you are able to move or leave.
113Cock a snookTo make a rude gesture by putting one thumb to the nose with the fingers outstretched.
114Cock and bull story A cock and bull story is a lie someone tells that is completely unbelievable.
115Cock in the henhouseThis is used to describe a male in an all-female environment.
116Cock of the walkA man who is excessively confident and thinks he’s better than other people is the cock of the walk.
117Cold day in hellThis is used as a prediction there is no chance some event or condition will ever happen.’There will be a cold day in hell before he manages it.’
118Cold feetIf you get cold feet about something, you lose the courage to do it.
119Cold fish A cold fish is a person who doesn’t show how they feel.
120Cold light of day If you see things in the cold light of day, you see them as they really are, not as you might want them to be.

121Cold shoulderIf you give or show someone the cold shoulder, you are deliberately unfriendly and unco-operative towards them.
122Cold sweatIf something brings you out in a cold sweat, it frightens you a lot.
123Cold turkey If someone suddenly stops taking drugs, instead of slowly cutting down, they do cold turkey.
124Colder than a witches titIf it is colder than a witches tit, it is extremely cold outside.
125Collateral damageAccidental or unintended damage or casualties are collateral damage.
126Collect dustIf something is collecting dust, it isn’t being used any more.
127Color barRules that restrict access on the basis of race or ethnicity are a color bar.
128Come a cropperSomeone whose actions or lifestyle will inevitably result in trouble is going to come a cropper.
129Come clean If someone comes clean about something, they admit to deceit or wrongdoing.
130Come hell or high waterIf someone says they’ll do something come hell or high water, they mean that nothing will stop them, no matter what happens.
131Come of age When something comes of age it develops completely and reaches maturity. When someone comes of age, they reach adulthood or fulfill their potential.
132Come on hardIf you come on hard, you are aggressive in your dealing with someone.
133Come on the heels ofIf something comes on the heels of something, it follows very soon after it.
134Come out in the washIf something will come out in the wash, it won’t have any permanent negative effect.
135Come out of the woodworkWhen things come out of the woodwork, they appear unexpectedly. (‘Crawl out of the woodwork’ is also used.)
136Come out of your shell If someone comes out of their shell, they stop being shy and withdrawn and become more friendly and sociable.
137Come rain or shineIf I say I’ll be at a place come rain or shine, I mean that I can be relied on to turn up; nothing, not even the vagaries of British weather, will deter me or stop me from being there.
138Come to a headIf events reach a crisis point, they come to a head.
139Come to bearIf something comes to bear on you, you start to feel the pressure or effect of it.
140Come to callIf someone comes to call, they respond to an order or summons directly.

141Come to gripsIf you come to grips with a problem or issue, you face up to it and deal with it.
142Come to heelIf someone comes to heel, they stop behaving in a way that is annoying to someone in authority and start being obedient.
143Come up rosesIf things come up roses, they produce a positive result, especially when things seemed to be going badly at first.
144Come up smelling of rosesIf someone comes up smelling of roses, they emerge from a situation with their reputation undamaged.
145Come up trumpsWhen someone is said to have ‘come up trumps’, they have completed an activity successfully or produced a good result, especially when they were not expected to.
146Come what mayIf you’re prepared to do something come what may, it means that nothing will stop or distract you, no matter how hard or difficult it becomes.
147Come with the territoryIf something comes with the territory, it is part of a job or responsibility and just has to be accepted, even if unpleasant.
148Comes with the territoryIf something comes with the territory, especially when undesirable, it is automatically included with something else, like a job, responsibility, etc.(‘Goes with the territory’ is also used.)
149Comfort zoneIt is the temperature range in which the body doesn’t shiver or sweat, but has an idiomatic sense of a place where people feel comfortable, where they can avoid the worries of the world. It can be physical or mental.
150Connect the dots When you connect the dots, you understand the connections and relationships.
151Constitution of an oxIf someone has the constitution of an ox, they are less affected than most people by things like tiredness, illness, alcohol, etc.
152Cook someone’s gooseIf you cook someone’s goose, you ruin their plans.
153Cook the books If people cook the books, they keep false accounts to make money illegally or avoid paying tax.
154Cool as a catTo act fine when you a actually scared or nervous.
155Cool your heelsIf you leave someone to cool their heels, you make them wait until they have calmed down.
156Coon’s age A very long time, as in ‘I haven’t seen her in a coon’s age!’
157Corner a marketIf a business is dominant in an area and unlikely to be challenged by other companies, it has cornered the market.
158Couch potatoA couch potato is an extremely idle or lazy person who chooses to spend most of their leisure time horizontal in front of the TV and eats a diet that is mainly junk food.
159Could eat a horse If you are very hungry, you could eat a horse.
160Couldn’t give two hootsIf you couldn’t give two hoots about something, you don’t care at all about it.

161Count sheepIf people cannot sleep, they are advised to count sheep mentally.
162Count your blessingsWhen people count their blessings, they concentrate on all the good things in their lives instead of the negative ones.
163Country mileA country mile is used to describe a long distance.
164Cover all the basesIf you cover all the bases, you deal with all aspects of a situation or issue, or anticipate all possibilities. (‘Cover all bases’ is also used.)
165Crack a nut with a sledgehammerIf you use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, you apply too much force to achieve a result. (‘Jackhammer’ is also used.)
166Crash a partyIf you crash a party, or are a gatecrasher, you go somewhere you haven’t been invited to.
167Cream of the cropThe cream of the crop is the best there is.
168Cream rises to the topA good person or idea cannot go unnoticed for long, just as cream poured in coffee or tea eventually rises to the top.
169Creature comfortsIf a person said “I hate camping. I don’t like giving up my creature comforts.” the person would be referring, in particular, to the comfortable things he/she would have at home but not when camping. At home, for example, he/she would have complete shelter from the weather, a television, a nice comfortable warm bed, the ability to take a warm bath or shower, comfortable lounge chairs to relax in and so on. The person doesn’t like giving up the material and psychological benefits of his/her normal life.
170Crème de la crèmeThe crème de la crème is the very best of something.
171Crocodile tearsIf someone cries crocodile tears, they pretend to be upset or affected by something.
172Crooked as a dog’s hind leg Someone who is very dishonest is as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.
173Cross swords When people cross swords, they argue or dispute. This expression is used when some groups accuse each other for non-adherence to norms. Actually no sword is used but the tempo of the argument is high enough to cause worsening of the already bad situation. It is a tussle (vehement struggle without use of arms) between the parties to establish supremacy.
174Cross that bridge when you come to itIf you will cross that bridge when you come to it, you will deal with a problem when it arises, but not until that point.
175Cross to bearIf someone has a cross to bear, they have a heavy burden of responsibility or a problem that they alone must cope with.
176Crossing the RubiconWhen you are crossing the Rubicon, you are passing a point of no return. After you do this thing, there is no way of turning around. The only way left is forward.
177Crunch timeWhen people, companies, etc, have to make an important decision that will have a considerable effect on their future, it is crunch time.
178Cry wolf If someone cries wolf, they raise a false alarm about something.
179Cry your eyes outIf you cry your eyes out, you cry uncontrollably.
180Cry-babyA cry-baby is a person who gets emotional and cries too easily.

181Cuckoo in the nestIs an issue or a problem, etc, is a cuckoo in the nest, it grows quickly and crowds out everything else.
182Cupboard loveTo show love to gain something from someone.
183Curate’s eggIf something is a bit of a curate’s egg, it is only good in parts.
184Curiosity killed the cat As cats are naturally curious animals, we use this expression to suggest to people that excessive curiosity is not necessarily a good thing, especially where it is not their business.
185Curry favorIf people try to curry favor, they try to get people to support them. (‘Curry favor’ is the American spelling.)
186Curve ballIf something is a curve ball, it is deceptive.
187Cut a long story shortThis idiom is used as a way of shortening a story by getting to to the end or the point.
188Cut a rugTo cut a rug is to dance.
189Cut aboveIf a person is described as a cut above other people, they are better in some way.
190Cut and driedIf something is cut and dried, then everything has already been decided and, in the case of an opinion, might be a little stale and predictable.
191Cut and runIf people cut and run, they take what they can get and leave before they lose everything.
192Cut cornersIf people try to do something as cheaply or as quickly as possible, often sacrificing quality, they are cutting corners.
193Cut down the tall poppiesIf people cut down the tall poppies, they criticise people who stand out from the crowd.
194Cut it fineIf you cut it fine, you only just manage to do something- at the very last moment. ‘Cut things fine’ is the same. ‘Cut it a bit fine’ is a common variation.
195Cut off your nose to spite your face If you cut off your nose to spite your face, you do something rash or silly that ends up making things worse for you, often because you are angry or upset.
196Cut someone some slack To relax a rule or make an allowance, as in allowing someone more time to finish something.
197Cut the Gordian knot If someone cuts the Gordian knot, they solve a very complex problem in a simple way.
198Cut the mustard If somebody or something doesn’t cut the mustard, they fail or it fails to reach the required standard.
199Cut to the chaseIf you cut to the chase, you get to the point, or the most interesting or important part of something without delay.
200Cut to the quick If someone’s cut to the quick by something, they are very hurt and upset indeed.

201Cut your coat according to your cloth If you cut your coat according to your cloth, you only buy things that you have sufficient money to pay for.
202Cut your lossesIf you cut your losses, you avoid losing any more money than you already have by getting out of a situation before matters worsen.
203Cut your teeth onThe place where you gain your early experience is where you cut your teeth.
204Cute as a bugIf something is as cute as a bug, it is sweet and endearing.
205Cuts no ice If something cuts no ice, it doesn’t have any effect or influence.
206Cutting edge Something that is cutting edge is at the forefront of progress in its area.

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