race against time
- effort to do something as soon as possible
- to be in a situation where the time is short and the task pending is not
- to be running out of time, quickly
- process of doing something before given time
- The completion of this project was honestly a race against time. The client needed to have filed the documents in the court by today at any cost.
- Can you not make this sound like a race against time? Let her take it slowly please?
- My mother is racing against time right now. Please be by my side because I will need you around.
- Uncle Ben has been racing against time ever since he has found out about the terminal illness.
- The exam paper was a race against time and I won!
- He was speeding home as if it was a race against time.
- You cannot really race against time now, can you?
- The man raced against time to get his daughter to the hospital when she had that horrid accident.
- Although it was a race against the clock, I am happy to announce that our team has met the target set by the client.
The phrase is speculated to have originated in the old American English but there is no literary proof to support this claim.
rags to riches
- go from being very poor to being very wealthy
- be very poor in the beginning then later become very rich
- go from poverty to wealth
- He went from rags to riches after his roadside performances were noticed by a famous movie maker and he was offered roles in his movies.
- His journey has been one of rags to riches. He started out as a street vendor but now is the owner of a big business.
- He grew up in abject poverty, but now is the highest paid sportsperson in the country. His story is really one of going from rags to riches.
- He was inspired after reading the rags-to-riches story of his favourite film star.
- Most people like a real life rags-to-riches story. It gives us hope in an otherwise tough world.
- Her story was one of going from rags to riches. She had nothing while growing up, now she is the creator of a famous fashion brand.
- She started by selling fast food on the street, but her recipe was so good that she quickly went from rags to riches and now she has her own restaurant.
The origin of the phrase is not very clear. However, history is replete with characters who have risen from the depths of poverty to the heights of power and wealth.
red letter day
- A day of significance.
- An important occasion, festival or holiday.
- A birthday, anniversary or a day of remembrance.
- Tomorrow is her red letter day, she always celebrates it with a big party.
- Sam and Sue like to celebrate their red letter day alone and out vacationing somewhere. This time they have taken their respective parents along too.
- Next week we celebrate the biggest red letter day in the calendar for us, the independence of our country.
The days of importance were marked in red colour in ancient Rome since the medieval times. Many calendars still prefer to print important dates in red instead of black. Some speculate that the church in 325 AD printed Holy days in red, which may not hold much ground due to the lack of evidence in that direction. In the United Kingdom, apart from religiously important dates, dates of civil importance were also added in red in the calendar. All of these days came to know as the red letter day. The judges would dress in scarlet robes on the red letter days in UK. In a lot of other countries such as Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Latin America and even South Korea, public holidays are commonly referred to as red days and are printed in red.
Scarlet day, Red day
ring a bell
- something that sounds familiar
- makes someone remember something indistinctly
- to awaken a vague or indistinct memory
- recall something experienced previously
- That name rings a bell but I cannot recall where I have heard it before.
- Does that description ring a bell with you?
- The place he was talking about rang a bell but I couldn’t remember where I had read about it.
- The name of the actress may not ring a bell but you all have seen her as a child artist in the TV show years ago.
- Have a look at this cryptic clue for the treasure hunt. Does this ring any bells with you?
- What he said in the morning rang a bell with me. I now know how to solve this problem.
The origin of this phrase is unclear, but there are some theories. One theory refers to Pavlov’s experiments with dogs, where he used a bell to invoke memories. When the dogs were served food, a bell was rung. Over time, the dogs started associating the sound of the bell with food and would start drooling when the bell was rung, even if the food was not given. Another theory suggests that bells have been used to remind or instruct us to do something since a long time. School bells, dinner bells, bells of an alarm clock, all serve to remind us that it is time to do something. Early recordings of this phrase used in the idiomatic form have been found since the mid 1900s.
rule of thumb
- a principle that is kept to
- a guide that is based on practice rather than theory
- a general principle that comes through experience and not any scientific means
- a practical and approximate way
- As a rule of thumb, I do not start a new project on Fridays.
- A good rule of thumb is to add the ingredients when the water starts to boil.
- During our boot camp in the jungle, we used to drink a glass of water every two hours as a rule of thumb.
- Going by the rule of thumb, it would take two hours to compile the data in each of these files.
- As a rule of thumb, we never went camping near water bodies during the rains.
- A useful rule of thumb in serving food is that two handfuls make a portion.
This phrase has been used since the 1600s and the origin is usually attributed to domestic violence, however, there is no proof of the theory. There was a belief that a law in England allowed a man to beat his wife with a stick which was not thicker than his thumb. However, it has been found that such a law did not exist. Also, the phrase has been in used before this law was believed to have existed. The real origin of the phrase, therefore, is not known.
running on fumes
- to continue doing something even when you have no energy left
- to operate with low resources or money
- to stay awake even when you are exhausted
- After two nights of continuous work, I’m running on fumes today.
- The company had been running on fumes lately, so its hardly surprising that they shut down their operations.
- After having partied late into the night, he was running on fumes the next day at work.
- Having travelled for the better part of the previous two days, the team was running on fumes on the day of the match and lost.
- Have you had any rest? You seem to be running on fumes.
- This project has been running on fumes. Its better if we close it.
- Having made all the arrangements single-handedly, he was running on fumes on the day of the event and couldn’t enjoy it.
- Let’s give him a break. He has been running on fumes after the marathon practice session he had today.
This phrase is in reference to an automobile which is low on fuel, but is still running.
read the riot act
- warning someone by scolding them to improve their behavior
- giving a strong warning to someone to stop behaving badly
- She’d been bearing bad behavior from her employee and thought it was time to read him the riot act.
- The teacher read the riot act to his students when they had been asked to move out of the class for unfinished assignments but they did not.
- The traffic policeman read the riot act to the biker who had been rash driving & was going to cause an accident.
- Despite having talked to the paying guest politely for not leaving lights switched on when he leaves, the landlord decided to read him the riot act that day when he would arrive.
The Riot Act was brought into action by the British parliament in 1715 as a result of the Jacobite rebellion of that year and granted power to the local authorities. According to this act, a group of twelve or more being assembled at a place was regarded unlawful and scolded severely for refusing to disperse after being ordered to do so and having being read a certain part of the Act by a person in authority. It was not repealed until 1967.
ray of sunshine
- someone or something that brings hope into the lives of others
- A person who brings joy to others especially during times of difficulty
- Amid the sorrow her son had been a real ray of sunshine.
- It is easy to add joy to a happy person’s life but not everyone is a ray of sunshine when one is in need.
- Reading good books is a ray of sunshine for me when I feel gloomy being stuck in a particular situation.
- Her students proved to be ray of sunshine for her when she was was trying to cope up with the grief of losing her dog.
- Prayers and blessings are said to be the real ray of sunshine for someone in a situation that seems difficult.
- He came as a ray of sunshine in his life when he was lost due to a broken relation. They have been best friends now.
- Poetry is a ray of sunshine in my life because it has helped me move out of the ghastly situations and take control of my life.
The origin of this phrase is currently unavailable with us.
rack your brains
- put great effort to think of or remember something
- thinking about something vigorously thus stretching one’s brains
- struggling hard trying to remember something
- I have been racking my brain all day trying to think of place where I kept my car keys.
- He had been racking his brains for an idea of a surprise party to her mother on her birthday when his friend arrived and told him of the new place in the city.
- The detective kept racking his brain to solve the mystery when his eyes got stuck at the evidence kept on the table.
- Do not rack your brain trying to plan for her birthday party. She is going to a hill station with her family a week before.
- I racked my brain trying to remember a friend’s phone number after having lost my phone but failed. The next hour she called and I felt sigh of relief.
A rack was an instrument of torture consisting of a platform on which a victim was stretched and their wrists and ankles were tied to the rollers. The expression of to rack someone is to torture them on this platform and the idea in this idiom is to put one’s brains to the same kind of trial in an attempt to remember something.
a rough diamond or a diamond in the rough
– a person of exceptional character
– a person with great potential but lacking polish and refinement
– a person who does not seem very polite or well educated at first, although they have a good character
– a person who has good qualities despite a rough exterior
– someone or something whose good qualities are hidden
– a person who is kinder and more amusing than they seem to be from their appearance and behavior
1. Bob is intelligent and trustworthy but lacks sophistication, he is a rough diamond.
2. Mitchell may have been a rough diamond, but he was absolutely loyal to his employer.
3. Rickey looks a little messy, but he’s a diamond in the rough.
4. She’s a diamond in the rough – a little hard to take at times, but very elegant and cooperative.
5. This show is one of those diamonds in the rough, a wonderful gem that almost no one has noticed.
6. Her singing voice is beautiful, but she needs help with her gestures; she’s a rough diamond.
7. Jack is intelligent and loyal but lacks manners – he’s a rough diamond.
This idiomatic expression is obviously a metaphor for the original unpolished state of diamond gemstones. It comes from the fact that when diamonds are newly mined – that is, before they have been cut and polished – they don’t shine, in fact they look quite a lot like pebbles and are easily overlooked in their “rough” state.
From this comes the idea that a person can also be like a diamond in the rough or, in the more common idiom, “a rough diamond.” This means a person who has rough, uncultivated or even impolite manners, but at heart is a very good person with excellent qualities. It is more commonly expressed in the form ‘rough diamond’. The first recorded use in print is in John Fletcher’s ‘A Wife for a Month, 1624’ – “She is very honest, and will be as hard to cut as a rough diamond.”