An idiom is basically a term or phrase which generally lends a non-literal, figurative meaning to the word or phrase; however, some common phrases become outright idioms even while retaining the same literal meaning. Categorized by their use of words or phrases as an indicator of class and position in a language (as opposed to an indicator of mood), idioms are not fixed or universal. Rather, their meaning varies with circumstances. Categorizing as idiom may also be called a literary device–a device for organizing, preparing, and expressing ideas, feelings, and descriptions in a particular manner.
The “classical” English idiom includes the words “you are,” “that was yesterday,” “in summer dress,” “in winter clothes,” “on the wing,” “I want to see you tomorrow,” “the wedding is underway,” “it’s so hot I could sweat through my shirt,” “so where are the flowers?” and “I miss you so much.” In these and other examples, the idiom “what is an idiom?” serves as a point of reference for distinguishing particular English idioms from others, while remaining within the boundaries of standard English. In this way, the distinction between the idiom and the non-idiom becomes blurred.
In English literature, many words, phrases, and expressions are referred to as idioms. These include words and phrases that reflect traditional ways of speaking (such as colloquial or jargon), those that convey feelings, thoughts, or emotions, and those that serve a specific purpose. Thus, what is an idiom may be a tradition that has become deeply ingrained in the culture of a certain community or country. But whatever its origination may be, the meaning behind it remains constant-word is always language. Thus, while the word “idiom” can refer to any one of these things and more, the list is quite consistent.
One of the most common idiom types is the figurative use of a verb. Take, for example, the sentence “The man who won the prize used to say that he wasn’t going to win.” In this example, the verb “used” has a figurative meaning, while the rest of the sentence, including the use of “won”, is a direct verbal statement.
Another type of what is an idiom is the alliteration of individual words. An example of this would be “A man who used to be a great athlete is now just a great athlete who uses his head.” Here, “used” has a figurative meaning, while” athlete” refers directly to an individual word. The alliteration in this example serves only to emphasize the figurative meaning of “used”. Yet another common idiom would be “A man who once lost his job is now in demand.” Again, “in demand” has a single word that means exactly what it is that it is supposed to mean-losing a job.
A very interesting type of what is an idiom, as opposed to the ones mentioned above, is the alliteration of complete sentences. For example, take the following statement: “A man once beat around the bush with a tree until he felt like beating someone with his tree berry bush.” Notice how the alliteration keeps the entire statement complete, while at the same time changing the intended message.
Now suppose that you asked your friend, Bob, what is an idiom, and he responds, “That depends on who you’re talking to.” If you are talking to Bob, the alliteration is “That depends on whom you’re talking to,” whereas if you are talking to your best friend, the alliteration would be “That depends on who you’re talking to.” This way of using idioms shows that although the speaker is making a simple statement, the idea behind it is much more complex than what is literally stated.
Of course, many of us do not speak idiom regularly, and thus we might not notice all of the different types of idioms that people use. Still, by keeping an open mind, you should be able to detect subtle changes in the way that others may be talking, especially when they are talking about something as important as what is an idiom. By paying attention to the way people are actually talking, you should eventually learn to pick up on the different figuratives, acronyms, and other idioms that are used in everyday life.