English Idioms: 25 Numerical Idioms and What They Mean

Hello everyone,

Numbers are all around us in everyday life.

We use them for counting, measuring, and calculations.

But numbers also show up in many common idioms and expressions that have figurative meanings beyond just the number itself.

These numerical idioms give us colorful ways to describe situations and ideas.

Today we’ll look at 25 different idioms that include numbers.

For each one, I’ll explain the meaning and give an example sentence showing how it is used.

Let’s get started!

1. A million-dollar smile

Meaning: A beautiful, charming, attractive smile
Example: The toddler flashed a million dollar smile when her dad walked in the room.

2. On cloud nine

Meaning: Feeling extremely happy and elated
Example: After getting the job promotion, Sam was on cloud nine for weeks.

3. 24/7

Meaning: All day, every day; without stopping
Example: The emergency room doctors work 24/7 to care for patients.

4. 20/20 hindsight

Meaning: Understanding something better after it has happened
Example: In 20/20 hindsight, I shouldn’t have quit my job without having a new one lined up first.

5. Once in a blue moon

Meaning: Something that happens very rarely
Example: My brother comes to visit only once in a blue moon since he lives on the other side of the country.

6. Two peas in a pod

Meaning: Two people or things that are very similar or alike
Example: The twin sisters were two peas in a pod, dressing alike and finishing each other’s sentences.

7. Sixth sense

Meaning: An exceptional ability to sense or perceive things
Example: The detective had a sixth sense about when someone was lying during questioning.

8. Seventh heaven

Meaning: A state of extreme happiness or bliss
Example: Winning the championship game put the whole team in seventh heaven.

9. An 11th hour decision

Meaning: A decision made at the very last possible moment
Example: At the 11th hour, they decided to cancel their vacation due to the hurricane warning.

10. Bad things come in threes

Meaning: When one negative thing happens, it will likely be followed by two more
Example: First my car broke down, then my furnace stopped working – I’m worried what the third bad thing will be since they come in threes!

11. Square one

Meaning: The beginning; to start over from the very first step
Example: After their big argument, the divorced couple had to go back to square one in splitting up their assets.

12. Around the clock

Meaning: All day and night without stopping; continuously
Example: New mothers have to be available to feed their babies around the clock.

13. At sixes and sevens

Meaning: In a state of confusion or disorder
Example: My desk is at sixes and sevens after I knocked over the boxes of paperwork onto the floor.

14. Nine times out of ten

Meaning: Very frequently; almost always
Example: Nine times out of ten, I pick pizza for dinner if it’s my choice.

15. Four letter word

Meaning: A rude, offensive, or obscene word (most of which have four letters)
Example: He has a bad habit of using four letter words when he gets angry.

16. Half a mind

Meaning: To have a slight inclination or be tempted to do something
Example: I had half a mind to quit my job after my boss yelled at me during the meeting.

17. 40 winks

Meaning: A short nap or period of sleep
Example: I’m going to take 40 winks before we go out to the party tonight.

18. 13th hour

Meaning: The last possible moment or deadline
Example: Don’t leave your homework until the 13th hour or you’ll be up all night finishing it.

19. 99 and 44/100 percent pure

Meaning: Something that is extremely pure, perfect or complete
Example: The gold jewelry was certified as 99 and 44/100 percent pure.

20. 13th floor

Meaning: Bad luck (many buildings skip labeling the 13th floor due to the superstition around the number 13)
Example: I try to avoid staying on the 13th floor in hotels since I’m a bit superstitious.

21. 21-gun salute

Meaning: The highest honor, given as a ceremonial salute
Example: The soldiers gave the president a 21-gun salute when he arrived.

22. 5:00 somewhere

Meaning: An excuse to start drinking alcohol, because it’s 5pm in some time zone
Example: “It may only be 11am here, but it’s 5:00 somewhere!” he joked as he cracked open a beer.

23. 3 sheets to the wind

Meaning: Very drunk
Example: After having way too many drinks at the wedding, the groom was 3 sheets to the wind.

24. 7 year itch

Meaning: A decline in satisfaction after several years of marriage or relationship
Example: It seemed like the couple was going through the classic 7 year itch in their marriage.

25. 80/20 rule

Meaning: The idea that 80% of results come from 20% of causes
Example: Following the 80/20 rule, I focus my efforts on the 20% of customers who generate 80% of my business revenue.

That’s all!

Hopefully these explanations and examples have helped shed some light on 25 common idioms that include numbers!

While the numbers don’t necessarily hold any deep significance, these quirky expressions have become ingrained in our everyday speech.

The next time you encounter one of these numerical nuggets, you’ll know exactly what it means.


Check out these awesome phrases & Idioms books I recommend:

Cambridge Idioms Dictionary

IDIOMS and PHRASES Anglo,Synonyms and Antonyms Anglo,One Word Substitution

Oxford Dictionary of Idioms

3000 Idioms and Phrases+ 3000 Proverbs 

Idioms for Kids

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