On your marks, get set, go!

Sport idiomsWhether or not you’ve been following the Commonwealth Games, or are a fan of sports in general, there’s one facet of sporting culture that’s hard to avoid: sport idioms.

Although they originate from the world of sport, these phrases and sayings infiltrate our everyday language.

I enjoyed researching weather idioms for one of my earlier blogs, so thought I’d continue the series by rounding up a selection of sport idioms – which I’ve grouped by the discipline they’re associated with.


Toe the line = To recognise authority and abide by the rules

Jump the gun = To start something ahead of time

Get off to a flying start = To have a very successful beginning

Have the inside track = To have an advantage

Run a mile = To go out of your way to avoid someone or something


Punch above one’s weight = To perform at a level above what’s expected

Below the belt = An unfair comment or action

Pull one’s punches = To be restrained in one’s criticism

Saved by the bell = Rescued at the last minute from a bad situation

Throw the towel in = To admit defeat


Have a good innings = To enjoy a long positive period

Not cricket = Not gentlemanly conduct


Level playing field = Every participant has an equal chance of success

Keep one’s eye on the ball = To remain alert and focused

Move the goalposts = To unfairly change the conditions or rules

Score an own goal = To unintentionally harm one’s own interests


Par for course = Something that’s normal or as expected

Horse riding/horse racing

Get back in the saddle = To be back doing something after taking a break from it

Straight from the horse’s mouth = Inside information or special knowledge about an event


Smooth/plain sailing = When something goes well, as planned

Stick your oar in = To interfere with something


Test the water = To check if one’s plan will be successful before proceeding

Dive in headfirst = To do something impulsively without thinking about the consequences

Out of one’s depth = Doing something that’s too difficult for one’s ability

Sink or swim = To fail or succeed by one’s own efforts


The ball’s in your court = It’s up to you to make the next move

There were so many popular sport idioms to choose from that I could only include a selection here. Have I missed out your favourite from this list? If so, please share below.

(image courtesy of digitalart / www.freedigitalphotos.net)

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