Sports Idioms Part 2

A few weeks ago, we looked at some sports idioms that are in use in everyday language. As you might imagine, there are a huge amount of these phrases in common usage.

Here are a few more popular sports idioms. See how many you know already and can use in conversation. Even if you use the phrases, do you know their origins?

Sports Idioms - barking up the wrong tree
This dog is barking up (and on!) the wrong tree.

Barking up the wrong tree

Meaning: to make a mistake, to get something wrong

Origin: Hunting. When hunting dogs would bark at the bottom of trees, mistakenly thinking they had chased the fox or other animal up there.

Example: “Santi asked Francis for help, but he was barking up the wrong tree.”

Let you off the hook

Meaning: to escape or get out of something

Origin: Fishing. When someone catches a fish, using a fishing hook, but decides to let the fish go back into the water.

Example: “Jay decided to let Adnan off the hook for forgetting his birthday.”

Neck and neck

Meaning: to be exactly even or equal with something or someone, usually in a race or contest

Origin: Horse racing. When two horses in a race are side by side.

Example: “I’m asking people if they prefer Breaking Bad or Mad Men: so far it’s neck and neck.”

Sports Idioms Neck and Neck
These two horses are neck and neck.

Plain sailing

Meaning: smooth and easy progress

Origin: Sailing, obviously. When the water is calm and there are no complications, a boat has plain sailing.

Example: “My English class today was plain sailing.”

Throw in the towel

Meaning: to give up

Origin: Boxing. If a boxer is losing badly and wants to stop the fight, their team will literally throw a towel into the boxing ring.

Example: “Bruce was losing 4-0 on FIFA, so he threw in the towel.”

To score an own goal

Meaning: to do something that makes the situation worse for you

Origin: Lots of sports, most notably football (or soccer). If you kick the ball into your own net, you have scored an own goal (a goal for the opposition).

Example: “You really scored an own goal when told the new manager you didn't like his haircut.”

Do you know any other sports idioms? Use the comment section below to let us know your favorites.

If you want to learn more idioms, here is a list of some of our favorite topics. Hopefully it will be plain sailing…
Idioms about happiness
Idioms about sadness
Music idioms
Color idioms
School idioms