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Emotions idioms - anger

Cao Tongyou from China writes:

In Chinese culture there are a lot of idioms which express people's feelings or emotions. I have learnt a few English idioms, but I do not know how to use them for specified occasions. I would appreciate it very much if you could spare a second to give me some suggestions.

Ganka Petkova from Bulgaria writes:

I would be grateful if you could explain the exact meaning of words which express human feelings. I'm trying to find a way to remember them. If you could give me some examples of using the right word in the right situation, I'd appreciate it.

Roger Woodham replies:
  We have many idioms which express human emotions. An idiom is a fixed expression, both grammatically and lexically. It is not possible to replace any of the words in the idiom and retain the idiomatic meaning. For example to let it all hang out means to have a very good time. If you said: I'm going to allow it all to hang out, this would change the meaning completely and you might be talking about putting the washing out to dry.

Some idioms remain in fashion and contribute to the unique character of a language over a long time. It is useful to know these. Some idioms go out of fashion. New idioms come into fashion over a period of time.


All of the following idioms describing just one human emotion are currently in use. Pay attention to meaning, but pay particular attention too to the context in which they are used as this will help to clarify when and how to use them.

degrees of anger (in increasing intensity)

to be / get steamed up - feel annoyed
to be / get hot under the collar - feel irritated
to be on the warpath - prepare to vent one's anger
to be up in arms - protest strongly
to be hopping mad - feel very angry
to fly off the handle - suddenly lose one's temper
to throw a wobbler - become suddenly angry with someone and break down in tears
to do one's nut - totally lose one's temper
to hit the ceiling / roof - comprehensively lose one's temper
to blow one's top / a fuse / a gasket - totally lose one's temper
to rant and rave - to argue loudly and energetically

  • When I failed to attend the first seminar, my tutor got very steamed up about it.
  • Because I told him there's no more money to spend on entertaining clients this month, he got a bit hot under the collar this morning.
  • I've stained the white carpet in the living room, so my mother's on the warpath.
  • The unions are up in arms since management declared there would be only a 2 percent increase on basic wages this year.
  • He's hopping mad because his daughter has borrowed his car for the weekend without first asking his permission.
  • I'm sorry. I shouldn't have flown off the handle like that. Please forgive me.
  • When she learnt that Bill had been cheating on her, she threw a wobbler and wouldn't stop crying.
  • My mother did her nut / hit the roof / blew her top when I told her I was quitting university.
    If you need to calm somebody down, you could say:
  • Take it easy.

    Or you might hear young people say:

  • Chill out!

to feel annoyed and disappointed

to be miffed
to be sick as a parrot

  • I was a bit miffed when I wasn't invited to Julie's wedding.
  • I was sick as a parrot at the way we lost the match in the last minute.

to annoy someone

to rub someone up the wrong way
to make someone's blood boil

  • He certainly knows how to rub you up the wrong way and he's only four years old.
  • It made my blood boil when I saw that he had taken all the credit for the work I'd done.

There are, of course, many emotions (and related idioms) apart from anger, but I will save these for future occasions. Otherwise this reply would be too long.


If you would like more practice more please visit our Message Board in the You, Me and Us part of our website.

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