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- Sports' names


- Sporting idioms


- Talking sport


- Can you win?

Whether you love or hate sports, there is one area of sporting culture that you cannot escape - sporting idioms. Professional writers and commentators, as well as the general public, often 'play safe' with language by using well-known sporting idioms to describe something rather than creating new phrases which people may not understand.

Below we've listed twenty of the more common sporting idioms. Look out for these and other idioms when you read or listen to reports. You'll often find them in articles that are not about sport.

Speaker image Listen to the idioms

To play safe
To act in a way that you hope will mean that you don't fail

To kick off
To start doing something

To score an own goal
To do something by accident causing a negative effect or the opposite of what you wanted

In the long run
Eventually, over a period of time in the future

To jump the gun
To do something before the correct time or without thinking about it properly

To be for the high jump
To be in trouble and likely to be punished

To take a running jump
This is used to tell someone who is annoying you to go away

To keep your head above water
To only just survive in times of difficulties

To be in deep water
To be in trouble

A heavyweight
A person with a lot of experience and influence in a certain field

Below the belt
This phrase is used to describe a comment or an action that was unfair

To throw in the towel
To give up and admit you are defeated

Plain sailing
Easy, without difficulty

Neck and neck
In an equal position

To stick your oar in
To interfere in something

On the ball
Alert, aware of what is happening

Take the ball and run
Take an idea or project and develop it

Wide of the mark
Something that is a long way from being correct

To start from scratch
To start from the beginning (a scratch is the mark where an athlete begins a race)

Off to a flying start
To make good progress at the beginning of something
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