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  • 15 Sports Idioms that American English Speakers use often

    Sports serve more purposes than to please the masses with their high intensity, adrenaline filled games. Sports of all kinds have seeped into the fabrics of our culture, providing fun ways to exercise, unique game day food, and of course, plenty of idioms! The best part about using sports idioms is you don’t have to be an expert in any athletic activity! Here are 15 sports idioms that are used by American English speakers frequently.

    The ball is in your court

    Sport idiom originated from: Tennis- When the ball is “in your court” it means it’s your turn to start.

    Meaning: It is now your time for action

    Example: “I left a message on his phone last Friday, so the ball is in his court.”



    Sport idiom originated from: Football/Rugby- In football, the blind side is an exposed area for a quarterback.

    Meaning: Didn’t see something happening. Oblivious to what would happen next.

    Example: “No one told me my enemy was coming to the party, so I was blind-sided when I saw her walk in.”


    Blow the competition away

    Sport idiom originated from: Any sport

    Meaning: Win or defeat with ease. Impressing the crowd will be easy.

    Example: “You’ve been practicing the piano your entire life, you’ll blow the competition away.”



    Sport idiom originated from: Horse Racing- A horse that is leading the field is called the “front-runner”.

    Meaning: To be ahead of the competition.

    Example: “Everyone is betting on John to win nationals, he’s been the front-runner for weeks.”


    Off the hook

    Sport idiom originated from: Fishing- When a fish untangles from the fishing hook, he is now free.

    Meaning: No longer is in trouble. No longer suspected of a crime.

    Example: “They found video footage of the real suspect so I’m finally off the hook!”



    Sport idiom originated from: Sailing- When someone falls off the edge of the ship into the ocean.

    Meaning: Going to extremes. Creating very large, often unachievable, plans.

    Example: “I’ll throw her a baby shower but I’m not going overboard, just a few guests and some food.”

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    Jump the gun

    Sport idiom originated from: Track (running)- In track meets, competitors are lined up next to each other on the track. They are allowed to start running once the gun is shot. If they begin before they hear the gun, they are disqualified.

    Meaning: Start something too early.

    Example: “My boss didn’t wait for me to explain, he just jumped the gun and fired me.”


    Learn the ropes

    Sport idiom originated from: Sailing- Those who learn how to sail must learn how to utilize all the various ropes on the vessel.

    Meaning: Become familiar with all the small details of your new job.

    Example: “I’ve only worked here for 3 weeks but I’m finally beginning to learn the ropes.”


    Out of left field

    Sport idiom originated from: Baseball- A left fielder has the furthest to throw back to home plate.

    Meaning: Someone or something that is very odd, weird, unusual.

    Example: “The businessman dressed way out of left field, wearing a neon suit and sneakers to the meeting.”


    Step up to the plate

    Sport idiom originated from: Baseball- When it’s a player’s turn to bat he must step up to the home plate.

    Meaning: Take responsibility.

    Example: “When her classmates were slacking on the group project, she decided to step up to the plate and give orders and assignments.


    Rain check

    Sport idiom originated from: Baseball- In baseball games, if it’s too rainy to play, spectators will be offered another ticket to use on a future baseball game. This ticket is called a rain check.

    Meaning: Reschedule an event for another time.

    Example: “I’m so sorry I couldn’t make it to dinner. Can I have a rain check for next Tuesday?”


    Ballpark estimate

    Sports idiom originated from: Baseball- The ballpark is the field where baseball is played on.

    Meaning: An educated guess.

    Example: “I’m not exactly sure when she said she’d be here, but I’m going to give it a ballpark estimate and say 8 o’clock.”


    Blow the whistle

    Sports idiom originated from: Sports with a referee- In some sports a referee will blow a whistle when a player is not following the rules.

    Meaning: To expose the truth about someone.

    Example: “The media blew the whistle on his unlawful practices before he had a chance to tell his wife.”


    Roll with the punches

    Sports idiom originated from: Boxing- Boxers will often roll with their punches to soften the impact.

    Meaning: To be easy going. Not determined to follow a strict itinerary.

    Example: “We didn’t plan out every detail of our trip, we plan on rolling with the punches.”


    Below the belt

    Sports idiom originated from: Karate- Hitting below the belt in karate is seen as unfair.

    Meaning: Saying or doing something that hurts someone’s feelings, ego, or reputation.

    Example: “He shouldn’t have spread those rumors about his brother, that’s hitting below the belt.”

    There are dozens of idioms that originated from sports that are commonly used by American English speakers! These idioms are so common in the English language that they are used in all different scenarios and situations, not just sports related topics.


    Related blog posts

    Want to learn slang expressions commonly used by American English speakers? Here is a great article.

    Want to learn idioms that are commonly used by American English speakers? We recommend this post

    Why do American English speakers pronounce certain sounds differently? Here is a great guide to developing an American Accent

    April 19, 2017
    19 April 2017,
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