The new year is a time when many people make resolutions to improve themselves. Here are some idioms about change and new beginnings.
Turn over a new leaf
Meaning: To change the way you behave and become a better person. “Leaf” here is an old word meaning page of a book, so the idea is that you’re turning to a new, blank page in a notebook.
In use: Billy decided to turn over a new leaf and stop teasing his younger brother.
Take stock (of something)
Meaning: To think carefully about a situation so that you can decide what to do about it. “Stock” means supplies of something, so “taking stock” conjures up the idea of counting how much of something you have.
In use: Ka-yan spent the night before her birthday taking stock of all she had achieved so far.
Kick the habit
Meaning: To stop doing something harmful that you have done for a long time
In use: Sandy has bitten his nails for years, but he really wants to kick the habit.
Take it one day at a time
Meaning: To deal with each day’s problems as they happen, and not worry too much about the distant future
In use: Giving up meat can be tough, but take it one day at a time, and you’ll realise you can do it.
Make a fresh start
Meaning: To take the opportunity to begin something again
In use: I’m looking forward to making a fresh start this term, training harder, and getting back on the basketball team.
Once and for all
Meaning: Completely and finally
In use: Arthur told his grandfather he had to stop smoking once and for all; otherwise he wouldn’t be visiting any more.
Bite the bullet
Meaning: To force yourself to do something unpleasant or difficult. Many sources say the phrase comes from battlefields, before there was anaesthetic, when soldiers were given something (sometimes a bullet) to put between their teeth to stop them screaming out as a surgeon amputated an injured limb.
In use: I’m scared he’ll say no, but I’m going to bite the bullet and finally ask Danny out on a date.
Get the ball rolling
Meaning: To start something happening. If you roll a ball, it gathers momentum so that it keeps going.
In use: Ms Chen started the ball rolling on our daily class gratitude list by writing a list of 10 things she’s thankful for.
Start from scratch
Meaning: To begin doing a job or activity completely from the beginning. A “scratch” was a term used for the starting line of a race.
In use: I’m not sure what I’ve done with the designs for my comic book, so I’ll have to start from scratch.
Get your act together
Meaning: To be more organised, or behave better so that you can achieve what you want or need to achieve
In use: Tommy needs to get his act together if he wants to apply for that scholarship – the deadline is next week.
Meaning: Someone who does not exercise and sits on the sofa watching a lot of TV
In use: Mum wants us all to join her yoga class and stop being couch potatoes.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew
Meaning: Don’t try to do more than you are able. If you take too big a bite of food, you will have trouble trying to swallow it, and could choke.
In use: Anna thinks I’ve bitten off more than I can chew by joining the choir, the orchestra and the debating team, but I think I’ll be fine.
Jump on the bandwagon
Meaning: To join an activity or support an opinion that is very fashionable. A bandwagon is a decorated cart for musicians to ride in.
In use: Clara says she’s always been interested in meditation, but I think she’s just jumping on the bandwagon so she seems cool.