29 Sports Idioms In English With Examples

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29 Sports Idioms In English With Examples

Sports and language have always been intertwined. Sports idioms have found their way into everyday conversations, from how we talk about the competition to the metaphors we use to describe life’s struggles. Whether you’re a seasoned sports fan or just dipping your toes into the world of athletics, understanding these idioms can add a new level of depth to your language skills.

In this blog, we’ll explore some of the most popular sports idioms in English and provide examples of how they can be used in everyday conversation. So, let’s lace up our shoes and hit the field (office or the classroom) to learn more about the fascinating world of sports idioms.

Read Also: 27+ Essential UK English Slang for Language Learners

  • Drop the Ball

This idiom is derived from American football, where dropping the ball results in a turnover. It means to make a mistake or fail to do something expected or required.

Example: The project manager dropped the ball by not submitting the report on time.

  • Hail Mary

In American football, a “Hail Mary” refers to a desperate, long-distance pass made in the final moments of a game. It is used as an idiom to describe a last-ditch effort or a desperate attempt to achieve success.

Example: The team is down by ten points with only a minute left. They’re going to try a Hail Mary play to win the game.

  • Blow the Whistle

This idiom comes from sports officials blowing a whistle to signal a stoppage or an infraction. It means to expose or reveal wrongdoing or misconduct.

Example: The whistleblower blew the whistle on the company’s unethical practices.

  • Keep Your Eye On the Ball

This idiom is often used in sports like baseball or tennis and means to stay focused and pay close attention to what is happening.

Example: When driving, it’s important to keep your eye on the ball and watch out for any potential hazards on the road.

  • Throw a Curveball

In baseball, a curveball is a pitch that suddenly changes direction. As an idiom, it means to do something unexpected or surprising that catches someone off guard.

Example: The interviewer threw a curveball by asking a completely unrelated question during the job interview.

  • Three Strikes and You’re Out

This idiom is from baseball and refers to the rule where a batter is out if they fail to hit the ball after three attempts. It is used to indicate that someone has exhausted their chances or opportunities.

Example: The team has already lost two matches in the tournament, so if they lose this game, it’s three strikes and they’re out.

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  • The Ball is in Your Court

This idiom is commonly used in sports like tennis and means that it is someone’s turn or responsibility to take action or make a decision.

Example: I’ve given you all the necessary information for the project proposal. Now the ball is in your court to make the final decision.

  • Knock It Out of the Park

This idiom comes from baseball and means to do something exceptionally well or with great success.

Example: Sarah’s presentation was outstanding. She really knocked it out of the park with her thorough research and compelling delivery.

  • Cut Someone Off at the Pass

This idiom originates from horseback riding or cattle herding and refers to intercepting or stopping someone before they can take action or reach a destination.

Example: I managed to cut him off at the pass and prevent him from submitting the incorrect report to the manager.

  • Don’t Be a Bench Warmer

In team sports, a bench warmer is a player who rarely gets to play during games. As an idiom, it means to not be inactive or uninvolved in a situation.

Example: If you want to succeed, you need to actively participate and contribute. Don’t be a bench warmer and let others take the lead.

Read Also: 187 American Slang Words You Need to Know in 2023

  • Down for the Count

This idiom comes from boxing and refers to a boxer being knocked down and unable to continue fighting, resulting in a defeat.

Example: After a series of setbacks, the project was down for the count, and we had to start over from scratch.

  • Cover All Bases

This idiom originates from baseball and means to take all possible precautions or actions to ensure that everything is accounted for or prepared.

Example: Before the big presentation, make sure to cover all bases by rehearsing, double-checking your slides, and preparing answers to potential questions.

  • Out of Someone’s League

This idiom is often used in sports and means that someone is not in the same skill or ability level as another person or group.

Example: She’s a talented professional dancer, and I’m just a beginner. She’s definitely out of my league when it comes to dancing.

  • Level Playing Field

This idiom refers to a fair and equal competition where all participants have an equal chance of success.

Example: The new rules and regulations aim to create a level playing field for all the athletes, ensuring fair competition.

  • In the Home Stretch

This idiom comes from horse racing and refers to the final part or stage of a competition or project.

Example: We’ve been working hard on this project for months, and now we’re in the home stretch. Just a few more tasks to complete before it’s finished.

  • Front Runner

This idiom refers to the person or team that is currently in the leading position or considered the most likely to win.

Example: The defending champion is the front runner in the tennis tournament, having won all of her matches so far.

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  • Par for the Course

This idiom originates from golf and means that something is considered normal, expected, or typical.

Example: It’s raining on our picnic day? Well, that’s par for the course in this unpredictable weather.

  • Two Strikes

This idiom comes from baseball and refers to a situation where someone has had two failed attempts or is close to failure.

Example: After missing the deadline twice, she knows she’s on thin ice with her boss. It’s two strikes already.

  • Hit a Home Run

This idiom is derived from baseball and means to achieve a highly successful outcome or accomplish something remarkable.

Example: The marketing campaign was a huge success. It really hit a home run with the target audience, resulting in a significant increase in sales.

  • Strike Out

This idiom comes from baseball and means to fail or be unsuccessful in achieving a goal or objective.

Example: Despite his best efforts, John struck out in his attempt to secure funding for his startup.

  • Out of Left Field

This idiom originates from baseball and refers to something that is unexpected, surprising, or coming from an unusual or unconventional source.

Example: The question he asked during the meeting came out of left field and caught everyone off guard.

  • Behind the Eight Ball

This idiom comes from billiards (pool) and means to be in a difficult or disadvantageous position.

Example: Due to the delayed shipment, we are now behind the eight ball and might not meet the project deadline.

  • Skating on Thin Ice

This idiom refers to being in a risky or precarious situation, where one wrong move could have serious consequences.

Example: He’s been arriving late to work consistently. He’s definitely skating on thin ice with his boss.

Read Also: English Phrases To Express Your Feelings

  • Hit a Winning Streak

This idiom refers to a period of consecutive victories or successes.

Example: The basketball team hit a winning streak, winning their last five games in a row.

  • Run Interference

This idiom originates from American football and means to intervene or obstruct to protect someone or provide them with an advantage.

Example: Sarah ran interference for her colleague during the meeting, deflecting tough questions and allowing him to present his ideas smoothly.

  • Play Hard and Fast

This idiom is used to describe an aggressive and determined style of play in sports or a situation where one acts quickly and decisively.

Example: The soccer team played hard and fast, putting pressure on their opponents and scoring several goals in the first half.

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  • Play Ball

This idiom is commonly used to indicate the start or resumption of an activity or project. It comes from baseball, where the game begins with the umpire saying “play ball.”

Example: The meeting is about to start. Let’s gather around the conference table and get ready to play ball.

  • Cover Ground

This idiom refers to making progress or taking action to accomplish something.

Example: The sales team is working hard to cover ground and reach their monthly targets.

  • Throw in the Towel

This idiom originates from boxing, where a trainer throws a towel into the ring to signal surrender. It means to give up or admit defeat.

Example: After several unsuccessful attempts, he decided to throw in the towel and look for a different approach.

  • Play Hardball

This idiom comes from baseball and is used to describe a tough or uncompromising approach in negotiations or conflicts.

Example: The company’s CEO is known to play hardball when it comes to business deals, always striving for the best terms for the company.

Read Also: English Words with Multiple Meanings


In conclusion, sports idioms are a fun and effective tool to enhance your English language skills. They add color to your conversations and help you better connect with native English speakers.

With the abundance of idioms derived from various sports, there’s no limit to how creative you can be with your language.

And if you’re looking for a more comprehensive way to improve your overall language skills, try Zoundslike, a free language learning app designed to help you speak like a native with ease and confidence.

So, what are you waiting for? Download Zoundslike today and take your language skills to the next level!

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