Water is a fundamental element of life, and its importance is reflected in the countless ways we use it in our daily lives. It has been a source of inspiration for poets, artists, and writers for centuries, and it is also a common subject of idiomatic expressions in many languages.
These water idioms offer a unique and creative way of expressing thoughts and emotions related to various aspects of life, from relationships to business to personal growth.
In this post, we will explore some of the most intriguing and widely used water idioms, delving into their meanings and origins, and discovering the valuable insights they offer.
35 Useful Water Idioms & Phrases (Meaning & Examples)
To Be In Deep Water
- Meaning: To be in a situation that is beyond your abilities to resolve; to be in trouble.
- Example In A Sentence: Peter found himself in deep water with the bank when he couldn’t make his loan payment. He had to borrow money from his parents to get him out of that mess.
To Blow Something Out Of The Water
- Meaning: To completely ruin something or to defeat someone.
- Example In A Sentence: At the tennis match, Andy completely blew Hank out of the water. I’d be surprised if he agreed to play him again.
To Be Like Oil And Water
- Meaning: to be unable or unwilling to get along with each other due to personality differences etc.
- Example In A Sentence: I wish that my boyfriend got along better with my best friend Sara, but the two of them are like oil and water.
To Cast One’s Bread Upon The Water
- Meaning: to do go things without seeking a reward; to be generous.
- Example In A Sentence: He left his well-paying job to cast his bread upon the water and take care of his sick father.
A Fish Out Of Water
- Meaning: used to describe someone who is uncomfortable in a new situation or environment.
- Example In A Sentence: He felt like a fish out of water at his new school. Fortunately, it didn’t take him long to make new friends and adapt to his new environment.
Can Talk Under Water
- Meaning: (Australian English) someone that is very talkative.
- Example In A Sentence: I saw Steve at the party, but I tried to avoid him because he could talk underwater.
As A Duck Takes To Water
- Meaning: to naturally be able to do something; to do something easily/smoothly.
- Example In A Sentence: My son took to driving like a duck takes to water. There is no doubt in my mind that he will pass his driving test today.
Dead In The Water
- Meaning: unable to move; inoperable
- Example In A Sentence: After the pandemic, many local businesses were dead in the water. Fortunately, some were able to move forward but a large majority were not.
To Dip One’s Toe In The Water
- Meaning: To try a new experience for the first time. Usually done slowly because the person is not sure they will like it or that they will be successful.
- Example In A Sentence: I would like to dip my toes in the water and see how the new product would work in this market.
To Have Just One Oar In The Water
- Meaning: To not think clearly about a certain situation.
- Example In A Sentence: I think he is crazy! He only has one oar in the water if he thinks that his plan is going to work.
To Get One’s Head Above Water
- Meaning: to get out of a stressful situation, usually related to a lot of work.
- Example In A Sentence: There is a ton of paperwork on my desk, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to get my head above water. Do you think Stephen could help me?
- Meaning: champagne
- Example In A Sentence: Shelby celebrated her new venture with a bottle of bubble water.
To Be In Low Water
- Meaning: Having very little money.
- Example In A Sentence: I can’t go to the movies tonight, I am in low water. Could we reschedule for next Friday? I get paid then.
To Hold Water
- Meaning: to be reasonable, sound, or valid, usually when talking about a statement, theory, etc.
- Example In A Sentence: His story about how he lost the car just doesn’t hold water.
To Muddy The Waters
- Meaning: to provide information that only makes the situation more confusing.
- Example In A Sentence: Rather than explaining the problem clearly he muddied the waters by bringing in unnecessary information.
To Plow Water
- Meaning: To waste one’s time on something.
- Example In A Sentence: You are plowing water if you think you can convince her to come with us. She is not one to change her mind.
To Pour Cold Water On Something
- Meaning: to discourage someone from doing something.
- Example In A Sentence: The news of the hurricane really pours cold water on our plans to go to the Bahamas.
Test The Waters
- Meaning #1: to try something to see if you like it.
- Example In A Sentence: He told me to test the waters first before making a big investment.
- Meaning #2: to get the opinion of others about a product before bringing it to market.
- Example In A Sentence: Before we invest a lot of money in this prototype, let’s test the waters.
A Long Drink Of Water
- Meaning: a boring or uninteresting person.
- Example In A Sentence: What did you think of Jessica’s new boyfriend? He sure is a long drink of water. He just sat there all night not saying a thing.
To Pour Oil On Troubled Waters
- Meaning: to calm down a tense situation. To calm someone down.
- Example In A Sentence: Tom poured oil on troubled waters before the situation got worse and they said something they would regret.
To Be In Unchartered Waters
- Meaning: a situation that could be difficult or dangerous because it is new to you.
- Example In A Sentence: I tried to fix my car but then I realized that I was in unchartered waters and it would be better to have a mechanic look at it.
To Be Water Off A Duck’s Back
- Meaning: used to say that one’s words or criticism have no effect on somebody.
- Example In A Sentence: They said some really mean things about his presentation, but it was like water off a duck’s back. It didn’t bother him at all. He knows he did a good job.
Blood Is Thicker Than Water
- Meaning: family is more important than any other relationship.
- Example In A Sentence: Don’t be afraid to ask us for help, you are family. Remember blood is thicker than water. Therefore, we will always be here for you.
To Carry Someone’s Water
- Meaning: to support someone without being critical about it.
- Example In A Sentence: He likes to be around people who will carry his water.
Milk And Water
- Meaning: Something that is feeble or weak.
- Example In A Sentence: These ideas are nothing but milk and water, we need to come up with something better. What ideas does Phoebe have?
Water Under The Bridge
- Meaning: a prior issue with someone has been resolved and you no longer want to argue about it. It can also mean that so much time has passed that you no longer want to make it an issue.
- Example In A Sentence: I think George is still mad that he wasn’t invited to the wedding, but he says it is water under the bridge.
Additional Reading: 11 Useful Bridge Idioms – Meaning & Examples
To Pay The Water Bill
- Meaning: (slang) to go to the bathroom; to urinate.
- Example In A Sentence: Excuse me, but I have to go pay the water bill.
To Walk On Water
- Meaning: to do something that is impossible.
- Example In A Sentence: Unless Ryan can walk on water, I don’t think we are going to get this project down in time.
Carry Fire In One Hand And Water In The Other
- Meaning: to deceive someone
- Example In A Sentence: I think Karen carries fire in one hand and water in the other because she says nice things to me, but she talks about me behind my back.
Dull As Dishwater
- Meaning: something that is extremely boring.
- Example In A Sentence: She told me the book was as dull as dishwater, but I read it anyway.
To Be In Hot Water
- Meaning: to be in trouble.
- Example In A Sentence: He is going to be in hot water when his parents find out that he skipped school today to watch a movie.
- Meaning: (slang) bar
- Example In A Sentence: After work do you want to go to the watering hole and grab a beer?
To Throw The Baby Out With The Bathwater
- Meaning: to throw out something valuable with something that is not valuable.
- Example In A Sentence: Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. I am sure we can salvage it.
To Be In Troubled Waters
- Meaning: to be in a rough situation.
- Example In A Sentence: I know that you may feel like you are in some troubled waters right now, but I am sure things will calm down eventually.
To Spend Money Like Water
- Meaning: to spend a lot of money.
- Example In A Sentence: I hope he saves the money grandma gave him. He spends money like water.
In conclusion, water idioms serve as a reflection of the diverse ways in which water is viewed and valued across cultures.
From the power of the ocean to the purity of a mountain spring, water provides us with a wealth of metaphorical language to express a range of human experiences and emotions.
Whether used to convey strength, resilience, purity, or uncertainty, these idiomatic expressions have the power to move and inspire us. By understanding and appreciating these idioms, we gain a deeper appreciation of the natural world and the role it plays in shaping our language and culture.
Moreover, we gain a valuable tool for expressing ourselves and connecting with others in a more meaningful way.
There you have it! 35 useful water idioms. Which one is your favorite? Please share your comments in the section below.
If you enjoy this post, you may also enjoy our Idiom Of The Day page. There we post a different idiom every day. Check it out!