Common Phrases

English Phrases and Idioms with Biblical Origins

Numerous phrases used in every day speech have their origin in the Bible.  The Word Wheel in  the Dunham Bible Museum features a few of these phrases, but many more are found below.

“man after my own heart” kindred spirit I Sam. 13:14
“thorn in the flesh” annoying, persistent difficulty I Cor. 12:7
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” Should I be responsible if something happens to someone else? Gen. 4:9
“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” a compensating justice for every wrong Matt. 5:38
“as old as Methusalah” very old Gen. 5:27
“as old as the hills” very old Job 15:7
“patience of Job” patience under extreme suffering Book of Job
“as you sow so shall you reap” your deeds will repay you in kind Gal. 6: 7
“at his wits end” perplexed; doesn’t know what to do Psalm 107:27
“doubting Thomas” skeptic; must have hard evidence before believing John 20:24-29
“written in stone” unchangeable truth Ex. 31:18
Babel confusion Genesis 11
“beat swords into ploughshares” turn away from war to peace Isa. 2:4; Micah 4:3; Joel 3:10
“bite the dust” fall wounded or dead Psalm 72:9
“handwriting on the wall” disaster or danger is near Dan. 5:5-6
“faith will move mountains” faith is very powerful Matt. 21:21
“fall from grace” fall from position of esteem Gal. 5:4
Goliath a large, overbearing obstacle or problem I Samuel 17
Delilah seductress Judges 16
“flesh and blood” all mankind; family Matt. 16:17
“by the skin of your teeth” a close miss from disaster Job
“Can a leopard change its spots?” can’t change your nature Jer. 13:323
“For everything there is a season” there’s a right time for everything Eccl. 3:1-8
Samson strong man with a tragic flaw Judges 17
Jezebel wicked, selfish, powerful, evil woman I Kings 19
“apple of my eye” very precious and dear Zech. 2:8; Deut. 32:10
“forbidden fruit” prohibited item Gen. 2:9
“from strength to strength” progress from one success to another Psalm 89:7
“give up the ghost” die or cease working Acts
“Judas kiss” deceptive show of affection with evil intent Matthew 26:49
“blind leading the blind” incompetent people leading incompetent people Matt. 15:19
“fly in the ointment” small, irritating problem that spoils everything Eccl. 10:1
“cast the first stone” be the first to attack a someone John 8:7
“salt of the earth” those of great worth and reliability Matt. 5:12
“powers that be” government authority Romans 13:1
“sour grapes” acting meanly after a disappointment Ezek. 18:2
“physician heal thyself” attend to your own faults more than the faults of others Luke 4:23
“no rest for the wicked” wicked will be tormented Isa. 57:20-21
“my cup runneth over” I have more than enough for my needs Psalm 23:5
“turn the other cheek” don’t retaliate for wrong done Matt. 5:39
“guilty flee when no man pursues” guilty fear discovery Proverbs 28:1
“go the extra mile” do more than is required Matt. 5:41
“Prodigal Son” someone rebelling and living a dissolute life, then returning to home and right living Luke 15:11-32
“Good Samaritan” someone who helps others from compassion with no thought of reward Luke 10:30-33
“How are the mighty fallen” those previously powerful are weakened II Sam. 1:19
“Lamb to the slaughter” unaware of impending danger Jer. 11:18
“Man does not live by bread alone” man has spiritual as well as physical needs Deut. 8:3
“living off the fat of the land” living well Gen. 45:18