50 Idioms About Legs, Feet, and Toes

By Mark Nichol

Here is a list of expressions that refer to one’s legs or feet or their parts, and the meaning of each idiom.

1. One’s Achilles’ heel is one’s weakness.
2. To be bound hand and foot is to be literally or figuratively tied up.
3. To bring one to heel is to subdue someone.
4. To go somewhere by or on foot is to walk or hike there.
5. To cool one’s heels is to pause to calm down or think before doing something rash.
6. To dig in one’s heels is to be obstinate.
7. One who doesn’t have a leg to stand on is unsupported by evidence or corroboration.
8. To drag one’s feet is to delay.
9. To find one’s feet is to become accustomed or oriented.
10. To be fleet of foot is to be fast.
11. To foot the bill is to accept financial responsibility.
12. To get down on your knees means to figuratively submit or ask for forgiveness.
13.–14. To get one’s feet wet is to have a modest or mild introductory experience; to put one’s toe in the water is to do so even more hesitantly.
15.–16. To get or start off on the right foot is to make a good first impression or to act productively soon after beginning an endeavor, and to get or start off on the wrong foot is to leave a poor first impression or act counterproductively soon after beginning an endeavor.
17. To get one’s sea legs to become accustomed to the pitch and roll of a marine vessel or, by extension, to become used to a situation.
18. To have a foot in the door is to have an advantage that will enable one to obtain a desired result.
19. To have foot-in-mouth disease is to habitually make awkward or inappropriate comments.
20. To have one’s feet in both camps is to be opportunistically sympathetic to two opposing viewpoints.
21. To have feet of clay is to have a hidden flaw or weakness (an allusion to the fragility of clay).
22. To have itchy feet is to be restless.
23. To have one foot in the grave is to be in poor health or near death.
24. To have two left feet is to feel clumsy.
25. To have the world at one’s feet is to be afforded an opportunity for rewarding experiences.
26. “Head to toe” means “entirely” or “thoroughly.”
27. To keep one’s feet on the ground is to remain realistic and responsible.
28. To keep someone on one’s toes is to do or say one or more things that cause the person to remain alert or attentive.
29. “Knee-high to a grasshopper” is a colorfully exaggerated expression referring to being a small child.
30. To land on one’s feet is to recover from a setback.
31. “My foot” is an idiom for expressing skepticism.
32. One who is on his or her last legs is in a state of exhaustion or near the point of giving up.
33. To pull someone’s leg is to deceive them for humorous effect.
34. To pull the rug from under one’s feet is to be deprived of support or disoriented by a sudden action; to have the rug pulled under one’s feet is to be the victim of such an action. “Have the ground cut out from under one’s feet” has the same meaning.
35. To put one’s best foot forward is to make a good impression.
36. To put one foot in front of the other is to begin a laborious undertaking.
37. To put one’s foot in it is to do or say something that gets one into an unfortunate situation, suggestive of stepping into an unpleasant substance.
38. To put one’s foot in one’s mouth is to say something awkward or inappropriate.
39. To put one’s feet up is to relax.
40. To put one’s foot down is to be insistent.
41. To put one’s foot to the floor is to suddenly hurry or increase one’s speed.
42. To set foot somewhere is to go into that place.
43. To shoot oneself in the foot is to do or say something disadvantageous to one’s own interests.
44. To stand on one’s own two feet is to act or live independently.
45. To step, or tread, on someone’s toes is to impinge on that person’s authority or responsibility or interfere with the person’s actions.
46. “The shoe is on the other foot” means that a situation has been reversed so that one who had been responsible for another’s misfortune is now suffering the same misfortune.
47. To think on one’s feet is to solve a problem reflexively or spontaneously.
48. To toe the line is to remain within the bounds of proper behavior or conduct.
49. To wait for the other shoe to drop is to be in expectation of receiving further developments or news.
50. To wait on someone hand and foot is to serve that person continuously.

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9 Responses to “50 Idioms About Legs, Feet, and Toes”

  • Gordon Havens

    I’ve found this type of list good for alleviating writer’s block, and to stimulate imagination and creativity.

  • Dale A. Wood

    On the contrary, I find such lists to be a waste of time and space, and somewhat annoying.

    Also, “To put one foot in front of the other is NOT to begin a laborious undertaking.”

    “To put one foot in front of the other is to PERSIST in a difficult undertaking,” and not necessarily a laborious one. Sometimes we just have to trudge forward for a long time: left-right-left-right-left-…

    I often find it necessary to put one foot in front of the other ALL DAY LONG to persist in my reading, writing, calculations, working out valid computer simulations, etc. Those who think that engineers and mathematicians do not work hard are very sadly mistaken.

    Dale

  • Dale A. Wood

    Addition: “To get down on your knees means to figuratively submit or ask for forgiveness.” OR to plead for mercy, too.

    There is a difference between asking for outright forgiveness, and pleading for mercy. In the latter, one begs like this:
    1. Don’t kill me for what I did.
    2. Sentence me to 10 years in prison instead of a life sentence.
    3. Whip me with seven lashes instead of 15 (or 20).

    Sometimes, things are much more difficult than what Portia said:
    “The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
    It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
    Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
    It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…”

  • Dale A. Wood

    “To think on one’s feet is to solve a problem reflexively or spontaneously,” is not necessarily true.

    This statement means:
    1. To literally think productively on one’s feet like good high school and college teachers do when presented with difficult questions. Also, the aides of presidents, prime ministers, generals, admirals, etc., are often called upon to think clearly and promptly when their bosses make inquiries of them.
    2. To think clearly in a difficult situation without getting rattled, panicking, or losing one’s wits.

    In situation #1, one of my college students unexpectedly asked me (in a senior class) what this variable “t” meant. (He should have known already.) I hesitated for just a moment, and then the musical answer popped into my head (and I am not a good singer at all).
    “Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future.
    Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future.
    And I want to fly like an eagle. Fly like an eagle, to the sea.
    Fly like an eagle – let my spirit carry me…”
    THE STEVE MILLER BAND.
    I also “soared” around my classroom with my arms spread like a soaring eagle, much to the amusement of my students.

    It was also true that my student was a musician who played part-time in a band when he wasn’t a student of electronics engineering.
    This is what I call “Thinking on my feet,” wow!

    By the way, take a look on You-tube, search for “Fly like an eagle”, and watch the video (at a hot-air balloon convention) of a giant “eagle” hot air ballon soaring in the air to this music.
    Dale

  • Lucas

    Interesting list. However, for the sake of clarity, it’s better to avoid using “a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print”.
    Lucas

  • Roberta B.

    @Dale A. Wood For a waste of time you sure had a lot to say. As I’ve said indirectly before, quit bitching and go write your own blog as I’m sure there are people who might be more entertained (and impressed) with the real estate your comments are tending to occupy. Sorry to be so blunt about it this time.

    I enjoy the Daily Writing Tips, and recognize it is work for someone to crank out something interesting consistently on a schedule. I even learn something from some of your comments sometimes, and they probably do spark a few ideas. However, what is so difficult about recognizing the rhythm and culture of this one and working with it? That’s my take on being annoyed.

  • Stefano

    I wholeheartedly agree with Roberta.
    DAW’s self-referential sniping has been bothering me for some time as it mars my enjoyment of this blog and interferes with the good-faith comments of other readers.

  • Curtis

    @Dale A. Wood,
    I’m going to chime in with Stefano and Roberta. Your posts usually remind me of Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” getting way off-topic and wasting space. They almost always have errors in them, too, although given their length, that becomes a statistical near-certainty.

    Sometimes you have something useful to point out, but even then, you hammer the point to absurdity with needless repetition.

    This is not a playground for your ego. If that’s what you want, go start your own. Otherwise, please keep your posts concise and on topic.

  • thebluebird11

    I had something to say, but Roberta and Stefano beat me to it. In addition, I think it is tedious, egotistical and rude when one poster’s comments take up more space than the author used for the original blog. IMHO, if a poster has that much to say, he needs to start his own blog, somewhere else. Again, sorry to be so blunt, but obviously past comments that were less so did not serve to deter the behavior. Not that I expect this comment to do so either, especially given the lateness of its posting.

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