30 Personality Idioms Explained in English

Idioms are like puzzles that don’t make sense when you take them literally – their meaning is more like a secret code.

In English, there are lots of idioms that describe different types of people.

Let’s break down 30 of these common idioms.

A bundle of nerves

Meaning: Someone who is extremely anxious, tense and nervous.

Example: Before the big presentation, Sarah was a bundle of nerves.

A smooth talker

Meaning: Someone skilled at persuasive or flattering speech to get what they want.

Example: The salesman was a real smooth talker and convinced me to upgrade.

A stuffed shirt

Meaning: A person who is excessively formal, pompous or self-important.

Example: Despite his wealth, he wasn’t a stuffed shirt at all – very down-to-earth.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing

Meaning: Someone who seems harmless but is actually dangerous or deceitful.

Example: That charity worker seemed so kind, but turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, stealing funds.


Meaning: Having a calm and relaxed nature, not getting upset easily.

Example: Jack is very easygoing and never lets things stress him out.

Get cold feet

Meaning: To lose your nerve or confidence about doing something.

Example: I was going to quit my job, but got cold feet at the last minute.


Meaning: A person who becomes angry very quickly over little things.

Example: Don’t provoke him – he’s a real hothead who blows up over anything.

Keep a cool head

Meaning: Remain calm and clearheaded in a difficult situation.

Example: In the crisis, the teachers managed to keep a cool head and evacuate everyone safely.

Let sleeping dogs lie

Meaning: To avoid restarting an unpleasant situation that has now settled down.

Example: I know he insulted you, but sometimes it’s better to let sleeping dogs lie.

On the ball

Meaning: Quick to understand and act upon things.

Example: The new manager is really on the ball and gets tasks done efficiently.

Quit cold turkey

Meaning: To suddenly stop a habit completely rather than gradually.

Example: I decided to quit smoking cold turkey.


Meaning: A very forgetful, disorganized person.

Example: Mom’s such a scatterbrain, she’s always misplacing her keys!

Stir crazy

Meaning: Feeling bored, restless, and confined from staying somewhere too long.

Example: After being snowed in for a week, the kids were getting stir crazy.


Meaning: Someone who compulsively works excessively hard.

Example: My boss responds to emails 24/7 – he’s a total workaholic.

A big cheese

Meaning: An important, powerful, or influential person.

Example: The big cheeses running the company gave the green light for expansion.

Apple of my eye

Meaning: Someone who is cherished above all others.

Example: My youngest child is the apple of my eye.

Bury the hatchet

Meaning: To make peace and forgive after a conflict or argument.

Example: After years of feuding, the families finally decided to bury the hatchet.

Call a spade a spade

Meaning: To speak honestly and directly without avoiding unpleasant issues.

Example: My grandfather always called a spade a spade – he never sugarcoated things.

Cut from the same cloth

Meaning: People or things that are very similar in nature or characteristics.

Example: Those twin brothers were cut from the same cloth – both hilarious pranksters.

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch

Meaning: Don’t anticipate a successful outcome before you’ve achieved it.

Example: I got into my top college choice, but Mom reminded me not to count my chickens yet until I got the financial aid details.

Don’t judge a book by its cover

Meaning: Don’t judge something primarily on appearance.

Example: He may look rough, but don’t judge a book by its cover – he’s brilliant.

Eat humble pie

Meaning: To make a humble apology after being wrong about something.

Example: The coach had to eat humble pie after his team won against expectations.

Every cloud has a silver lining

Meaning: Even difficulties or setbacks have a positive side or hopeful outcome.

Example: Losing my job was stressful, but every cloud has a silver lining – it let me switch careers.

In a nutshell

Meaning: To summarize or state the main point briefly.

Example: In a nutshell, I think we should go with Plan B.

Kill two birds with one stone

Meaning: To accomplish two things with a single action or effort.

Example: I’ll kill two birds with one stone by going to the grocery store on my way home.

Make a long story short

Meaning: To give an abbreviated or condensed account of something.

Example: Make a long story short, we got lost trying to find the place.

Speak of the devil

Meaning: Referring to someone who has just arrived while they were being discussed.

Example: Speak of the devil! We were just wondering when you’d get here.

The blind leading the blind

Meaning: People attempting to advise others when neither has true knowledge.

Example: With those amateur directors calling the shots, it was the blind leading the blind.

The elephant in the room

Meaning: An obvious major problem or issue that everyone consciously ignores.

Example: We need to address the elephant in the room and talk about the company’s financial troubles.

When it rains, it pours

Meaning: When one has a series of problems or misfortunes occurring successively.

Example: First my car broke down, then the washing machine died – when it rains, it pours!

I hope these explanations have made it easier to understand 30 common personality idioms in English!

Knowing idioms makes conversations more interesting and meaningful.

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