The essence of an idiom is to spark a colorful image in the mind through relatable and rich language.
When referring to life, our idioms will provide a unique window into life’s manifold dimensions—be it the delightful highs, the unavoidable lows, or the unpredictable turns.
For instance, we could use the term “a walk in the park” to symbolize an easy and pleasant experience in life, such as “my twenties were a walk in the park compared to my thirties”.
One very popular example right now is “life is a rollercoaster”. As you can see in the following graph from Google’s archives, which record phrases from books and newspapers throughout history, this one has gained popularity since the 1980s:
Idioms for Life
1. A walk in the park
Meaning: This idiom signifies something that is easy or enjoyable, just as a literal walk in a park would be.
When to use: Use this idiom when describing a task or situation that is not challenging or stressing.
In a sentence: “Compared to her previous job, her current role felt like a walk in the park.”
2. Life is a roller coaster
Meaning: This idiom implies that life is filled with ups and downs, highs and lows, with changes occurring unexpectedly.
When to use: Use this idiom when discussing the unpredictability or variability of life’s occurrences.
In a sentence: “Ever since he lost his job, Jerry has learned that life really is a rollercoaster, filled with unexpected twists and turns.”
3. The school of hard knocks
Meaning: This idiom suggests learning life’s tough lessons through personal experience rather than an academic education.
When to use: Apply this idiom when referring to life experiences that have taught valuable lessons, often through hardship or difficulty.
In a sentence: “Having grown up in a tough neighborhood, Mike had graduated from the school of hard knocks.”
See Also: A List of Similes for Life
4. When life gives you lemons
Meaning: This idiom means making the best out of a difficult situation, just as one would make lemonade from lemons.
When to use: Use this idiom when suggesting positivity and resilience in the face of adversity.
In a sentence: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade; that’s always been Sarah’s approach to any setback.”
5. A slice of life
Meaning: This idiom represents a portion of real-life experience or situation that someone can relate to.
When to use: Utilize this idiom when discussing an event or experience that is typical of what might happen in one’s life.
In a sentence: “His new book gives us a slice of life during medieval times.”
6. Ups and downs
Meaning: This idiom implies the positive and negative periods that one goes through in life.
When to use: Use this idiom to express the fluctuation between good and bad times in life.
In a sentence: “Their marriage, like everyone else’s, had its ups and downs, but their love for each other remained constant.”
See Also: A List of Metaphors for Life
7. Live and learn
Meaning: This idiomatic expression means learning from experience or mistakes.
When to use: Apply this idiom when discussing the notion of learning from life’s experiences or from your mistakes.
In a sentence: “I won’t make that mistake again, but well, live and learn.”
Meaning: This idiom signifies something or someone who provides help in a difficult situation, similar to a literal lifeline rescuing someone from drowning.
When to use: Employ this idiom when describing a source of help or support during a challenging time.
In a sentence: “During my time of unemployment, my savings were a lifeline, allowing me to keep paying my bills.”
9. Life’s too short
Meaning: This idiom implies that life should be enjoyed because it passes quickly.
When to use: Use this idiom to express the importance of enjoying life and not wasting time on petty issues.
In a sentence: “Life’s too short to hold grudges against old friends.”
10. Have the time of your life
Meaning: This idiom refers to an exciting, unforgettable, and enjoyable experience.
When to use: Use this idiom to describe a highly enjoyable experience in life.
In a sentence: “On their European vacation, they had the time of their life.”
11. Breath of fresh air
Meaning: This idiom represents a refreshing change, especially in a routine or monotonal setting.
When to use: Use this idiom to describe something fresh, unique, or invigorating in life.
In a sentence: “Joining the art class was a breath of fresh air in his corporate-driven life.”
12. It’s a small world
Meaning: This idiom refers to the surprising coincidences in life when unexpected connections are discovered among people.
When to use: Employ this idiom when discussing surprising intersections and connections between people.
In a sentence: “I ran into my grade school teacher at a conference in Spain. It’s a small world!”
13. At the crossroads
Meaning: This idiom signifies a crucial turning point in life where a critical decision needs to be made.
When to use: Apply this idiom when discussing a moment of decision that will significantly affect the course of life.
In a sentence: “After her graduation, she found herself at the crossroads, not knowing whether to pursue a career in law or in journalism.”
14. Second lease of life
Meaning: This idiom means to gain a new opportunity in life, especially after a life-threatening situation or a near-death experience.
When to use: Use this idiom when referring to new opportunities or renewed energy to live following a difficult period.
In a sentence: “After surviving the car accident, Robert felt he had been given a second lease of life and decided to spend more time with his loved ones.”
15. In the prime of life
Meaning: This idiom signifies the period of life when one’s mental and physical abilities are at their peak.
When to use: Use this idiom when discussing the pinnacle of a person’s life, often characterized by strength, vigor, and good health.
In a sentence: “At 30, she is in the prime of life, now running her own business while raising two kids.”
16. Spice of life
Meaning: This idiom suggests that variety is what makes life interesting and worth living.
When to use: You can use this idiom when discussing the importance of diversity, excitement, and unique experiences in life.
In a sentence: “Traveling is one way to encounter the spice of life, as you learn about different cultures and lifestyles.”
17. That’s life
Meaning: This idiom signifies the acceptance of life’s disappointments, difficulties, or unexpected occurrences.
When to use: Use this idiom when describing things that cannot be changed or controlled in life and must be accepted as they are.
In a sentence: “We didn’t get the contract we had been hoping for, but that’s life.”
18. Ball of fire
Meaning: This idiom refers to a person full of energy, ambition, or talent.
When to use: Use this idiom when talking about a highly energetic, ambitious, or talented individual.
In a sentence: “As a young entrepreneur willing to revolutionize the industry, she was a ball of fire.”