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Idioms and Sayings About Sport

Idiom / Saying Explanation

A ballpark figure (actually a baseball term, but widely used in business in the UK too)

For example:-

I don't need an exact quotation, just give me a ballpark figure.

Rough estimate.

To get the ball rolling.

For example:-

If we don't get the ball rolling on this project soon we won't be able to deliver on time.

To get something started.

To keep your eye on the ball.

For example:-

You'll need to keep your eye on the ball on this project, the technology available is moving so quickly.

To remain alert.

To be on the ball

For example:-

You need to be on the ball with this customer, he's very clever.

To be quick to understand and react to things.

To play ball

For example:-

We'll all achieve much more if we just play ball.

To agree to do what someone asks you to do, in the way someone else wants you to do it.

A whole new ball game

For example:-

I'd done a lot of kayaking in the UK, but the rivers in the French Alps were a whole new ball game.

A completely different situation, often one which is difficult or which you know little about.

The ball's in someone's court

For example:-

Well I gave them all the information I could, and now the ball's in their court.

To have to do something before any progress can be made in a situation.

A balls up.

For example:-

He forgot his visuals, so the presentation was a complete balls up.

A bad mistake or shoddy job.

To be bowled over (cricket)

For example:-

I went to see his latest exhibition, it really bowled me over.

To astonish or overwhelm.

Lit: To knock both of the bails off the wicket

To beat (someone) to the punch (boxing)

For example:-

We have to get this new product out before our rivals beat us to the punch.

To make the first decisive move in a situation.

To get the boot

For example:-

They gave him the boot after he failed in his last project.

To be fired or let go from an organization.

It's not cricket

For example:-

It's not cricket to steal someone's web site.

If someone's behaviour or actions are not cricket, they are not honourable or moral.

To give it your best shot

For example:-

Whether you pass or fail in the test at least you'll know you gave it your best shot.

To put forth your best effort.

To have get-up-and-go.

For example:-

I can't play football any more. My get up and go has got up and gone.

To have a high personal energy level.

To go the distance (boxing)

For example:-

No matter what you say about him, he really went the distance on his last project. No one could have done more.

To carry through a course of action to completion.

To hit below the belt (boxing)

For example:-

They hit the workers below the belt when they closed the factory gates without any warning.

To act unfairly or unscrupulously.

Lit: An illegal move in boxing

The rub of the green.

For example:-

France had the rub of the green when the referee didn't spot that handball.

To be lucky especially in a sport or pastime played on a green surface.

To jockey yourself into position. (Horseracing)

For example:-

He got the promotion after jockeying himself into position.

To put yourself into a good position to win something.

To kick something around.

For example:-

Let's just kick a few ideas around and see what we come up with.

To pass an idea from person to person.

Lit: Passing the ball.

To kick it into touch.

For example:-

Before we waste any more time on this, I suggest we just kick it into touch, it's just not going to work.

To cancel or quit something.

Lit: To gain ground or to defend your team.

To kick off.

For example:-

We got out of the pub before it all kicked off and the fists started flying.

To start trouble or fight.

Lit: Start the game.

Knock yourself out.

For example:-

Me: Can I drive today?
Hubby: Sure, knock yourself out.

Used to give permission to someone to do something.

To let the side down

For example:-

When Beckham missed that penalty he really let the side down.

To fail when others are relying on you.

To (make a) pitch for something

For example:-

He pitched the idea at us, but we turned him down.

To try to persuade people to support you or give you something.

To move the goalposts

For example:-

We'll never reach an agreement if they keep moving the goalposts.

To make unfair changes without warning.

No holds barred (wrestling)

For example:-

They played rough in the negotiations, no holds barred.

With all restrictions relaxed.

To play away from home

For example:-

She asked for a divorce when she found out he'd been playing away for home.

To have an affair.

Lit: To play at the oppositions ground.

To play it safe

For example:-

You'll never be truly successful if you always play it safe.

To be careful and avoid any risk

To be saved by the bell (boxing)

For example:-

The authorities arrested Chile's Gen. Augusto Pinochet, but he was saved by the bell of old age.

To be saved from misfortune or unpleasantness by something.

Lit: When an opponent was knocked out and the bell rang before the count was completed the person was not out.

Saving grace

For example:-

They lost 10:0, their only saving grace was that they tried hard.

Some good quality that makes you like something or someone although you do not like anything else about them.

To score a tie-breaker

For example:-


The final thing / point that breaks an even-scored game or other event.

To score an own goal

For example:-

He scored a bit of an own goal when he increased the rate. They decided he was just too expensive and used someone else.

To make a problem for yourself.

Lit: To score in your own net - really ugly.

To throw in the towel (boxing)

For example:-

The union decided to throw in the towel when they realised they weren't going to win any more concessions.

To surrender, admit defeat.

Lit: To signal surrender by throwing the towel into the ring.

To win by a nose (horse racing)

For example:-

Our bid for that contract was won by a nose. There really wasn't much difference between us.

To succeed by a very narrow margin.
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