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English Idioms Beginning With "B"

Babe in arms
A babe in arms is a very young child, or a person who is very young to be holding a position.

Babe in the woods
A babe in the woods is a naive, defenceless, young person.

Baby boomer
(USA) A baby boomer is someone born in the years after the end of the Second World War, a period when the population was growing very fast.

Back burner
If an issue is on the back burner, it is being given low priority.

Back foot
(UK) If you are on your back foot, you are at a disadvantage and forced to be defensive of your position.

Back number
Something that's a back number is dated or out of fashion.

Back the wrong horse
If you back the wrong horse, you give your support to the losing side in something.

Back to back
If things happen back to back, they are directly one after another.

Back to square one
If you are back to square one, you have to start from the beginning again.

Back to the drawing board
If you have to go back to the drawing board, you have to go back to the beginning and start something again.

Back to the salt mine
If someone says they have to go back to the salt mine, they have to return to work.

Back to the wall
If you have your back to the wall, you are in a difficult situation with very little room for manoeuvre.

Backseat driver
A backseat driver is an annoying person who is fond of giving advice to the person performing a task or doing something, especially when the advice is either wrong or unwelcome.

Bad Apple
A person who is bad and makes other bad is a bad apple.

Bad blood
If people feel hate because of things that happened in the past, there is bad blood between them.

Bad egg
A person who cannot be trusted is a bad egg. Good egg is the opposite.

Bad hair day
If you're having a bad hair day, things are not going the way you would like or had planned.

Bad mouth
(UK) When you are bad mouthing,you are saying negative things about someone or something.('Bad-mouth' and 'badmouth' are also used.)

Bad shape
If something's in bad shape, it's in bad condition. If a person's in bad shape, they are unfit or unhealthy.

Bad taste in your mouth
If something leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth, you feel there is something wrong or bad about it.

Bad workers always blame their tools
"A bad worker always blames their tools" - If somebody does a job badly or loses in a game and claims that they were let down by their equipment, you can use this to imply that this was not the case.

Bag of bones
If someone is a bag of bones, they are very underweight.

Bag of nerves
If someone is a bag of nerves, they are very worried or nervous.

Baker's dozen
A Baker's dozen is 13 rather than 12.

Bald as a coot
A person who is completely bald is as bald as a coot.

Ball is in your court
If the ball is in your court, it is up to you to make the next decision or step.

Ballpark figure
A ballpark figure is a rough or approximate number (guesstimate) to give a general idea of something, like a rough estimate for a cost, etc.

Banana republic
Banana republic is a term used for small countries that are dependent on a single crop or resource and governed badly by a corrupt elite.

Banana skin
(UK) A banana skin is something that is an embarrassment or causes problems.

Bandit territory
An area or an industry, profession, etc, where rules and laws are ignored or flouted is bandit territory.

Baptism of fire
A baptism of fire was a soldier's first experience of shooting. Any unpleasant experience undergone, usually where it is also a learning experience, is a baptism of fire.

Bar fly
A bar fly is a person who spends a lot of time drinking in different bars and pubs.

Bare your heart
If you bare your heart to someone, you tell them you personal and private feelings. ('Bare your soul' is an alternative form of the idiom.)

Barefaced liar
A barefaced liar is one who displays no shame about lying even if they are exposed.

Bark is worse than their bite
Someone who's bark is worse than their bite may well get angry and shout, but doesn't take action.

Barking up the wrong tree
If you are barking up the wrong tree, it means that you have completely misunderstood something or are totally wrong.

Barkus is willing
This idiom means that someone is willing to get married.

Barrack-room lawyer
(UK) A barrack-room lawyer is a person who gives opinions on things they are not qualified to speak about.

Barrel of laughs
If someone's a barrel of laughs, they are always joking and you find them funny.

Basket case
If something is a basket case, it is so bad that it cannot be helped.

Bat an eyelid
If someone doesn't bat an eyelid, they don't react or show any emotion when surprised, shocked, etc.

Bated breath
If someone says they're waiting with bated breath, they're very excited and find it difficult to be patient.('Baited breath' is a common mistake.)

Batten down the hatches
If you batten down the hatches, you prepare for the worst that could happen to you.

Battle of nerves
A battle of nerves is a situation where neither side in a conflict or dispute is willing to back down and is waiting for the other side to weaken. ('A war of nerves' is an alternative form.)

Be all ears
If you are all ears, you are very eager to hear what someone has to say.

Be careful what you wish for
If you get things that you desire, there may be unforeseen and unpleasant consequences.('Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true.' and 'Be careful what you wish for; you may receive it.' are also used.)

Be on the pig's back
If you're on the pig's back, you're happy / content / in fine form.

Be out in left field
(USA) To be out in left field is not to know what's going on. Taken from baseball, when youngsters assign less capable players to the outfield where the ball is less likely to be hit by a young player. In business, one might say, 'Don't ask the new manager; he's out in left field and doesn't know any answers yet.'

Be that as it may
Be that as it may is an expression which means that, while you are prepared to accept that there is some truth in what the other person has just said, it's not going to change your opinions in any significant manner.

Be true blue
If a person/object/situation is considered to be 'true blue', it is considered genuine.

Be up the spout
(UK) If a woman is up the spout, she is pregnant.

Bean counter
A bean counter is an accountant.

Bear fruit
If something bears fruit, it produces positive results.

Bear market
A bear market is a period when investors are pessimistic and expect financial losses so are more likely to sell than to buy shares.

Bear the brunt
People who bear the brunt of something endure the worst of something bad.

Beard the lion in his own den
If you confront a powerful or dangerous rival on their territory, you are bearding the lion in his own den.

Beat about the bush
If someone doesn't say clearly what they mean and try to make it hard to understand, they are beating about (around) the bush.

Beat someone to the draw
(USA) If you beat someone to the draw, you do something before they do.

Beat swords into ploughshares
If people beat swords into ploughshares, they spend money on humanitarian purposes rather than weapons. (The American English spelling is 'plowshares')

Beat the daylights out of someone
If someone beats the daylights out of another person, they hit them repeatedly. ('Knock' can also be used and it can be made even stronger by saying 'the living daylights'.)

Beat to the punch
If you beat someone to the punch, you act before them and gain an advantage.

Beat your brains out
If you beat your brains out, you think hard about something but cannot solve, understand or remember it.

Beating a dead horse
(USA) If someone is trying to convince people to do or feel something without any hope of succeeding, they're beating a dead horse. This is used when someone is trying to raise interest in an issue that no-one supports anymore; beating a dead horse will not make it do any more work.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder means that different people will find different things beautiful and that the differences of opinion don't matter greatly.

Beauty is only skin deep
This idiom means that appearances can be deceptive and something that seems or looks good may turn out to be bad.

Beck and call
Someone who does everything for you, no matter when you ask, is at your beck and call.

Bedroom eyes
Someone with bedroom eyes has a sexy look in their eyes.

Bee in your bonnet
If someone is very excited about something, they have a bee in their bonnet.

Bee's Knees
If something is the bee's knees, it's outstanding or the best in its class.

Beeline for
If you make a beeline for a place, you head there directly.

Been in the wars
(UK) If someone has been in the wars, they have been hurt or look as if they have been in a struggle.

Been there, done that
People say this when they have already experienced what is being discussed.

Beer and skittles
(UK) People say that life is not all beer and skittles, meaning that it is not about self-indulgence and pleasure.

Before the ink is dry
If people make an agreement or contract and then the situation changes very quickly, it changes before the ink is dry.

Before you can say Jack Robinson
The term Jack Robinson represents 'a short amount of time'. When you do something before you can say Jack Robinson, you do it very quickly.

Beg the question
In philosophy "to beg the question" is to assume something to be true that has not yet been proved. I have seen the idiom also to mean that a question is crying out to be asked.

Beggars can't be choosers
This idiom means that people who are in great need must accept any help that is offered, even if it is not a complete solution to their problems.

Behind bars
When someone is behind bars, they are in prison.

Behind closed doors
If something happens away from the public eye, it happens behind closed doors.

Behind someone's back
If you do something behind someone's back, you do it without telling them.

Behind the eight ball
A difficult position from which it is unlikely one can escape.

Behind the times
Someone that is behind the times is old-fashioned and has ideas that are regarded as out-dated.

Believe in the hereafter
A belief in the hereafter is a belief in the afterlife, or life after death. It is, therefore, associated with religions and the soul's journey to heaven or to hell, whichever way being just deserts for the person based on how they led their life.

Bells and whistles
Bells and whistles are attractive features that things like computer programs have, though often a bit unnecessary.

Bells on
(USA) To be somewhere with bells on means to arrive there happy and delighted to attend.

Belly up
If things go belly up, they go badly wrong.

Below par
If something isn't up to standard, or someone isn't feeling or doing very well, they are below par.

Below the belt
If someone says something that is cruel or unfair, it is below the belt, like the illegal punches in boxing.

Belt and braces
(UK) Someone who wears belt and braces is very cautious and takes no risks.

Belt and suspenders
(USA) Someone who wears belt and suspenders is very cautious and takes no risks.

Bend over backwards
If someone bends over backwards, they do everything they can to help someone.

Bend someone's ear
To bend someone's ear is to talk to someone about something for a long-enough period that it becomes tiresome for the listener.

Benjamin of the family
The Benjamin of the family is the youngest child.

Beside the point
If something is beside the point, it's not relevant to the matter being discussed or considered.

Beside themselves
If people are beside themselves, they are very worried or emotional about something.

Beside yourself
If you are beside yourself, you are extremely angry.

Best of a bad bunch
The best that could be obtained from a list of options that were not exactly what was required.

Best of both worlds
If you have the best of both worlds, you benefit from different things that do not normally go together.

Best thing since sliced bread
If something is the best thing since sliced bread, it is excellent. ('The greatest thing since sliced bread' is also used.)

Bet your bottom dollar
(USA) If you can bet your bottom dollar on something, you can be absolutely sure about it.

Better half
Your better half is your husband or wife.

Better late than never
This idiom suggests that doing something late is better than not doing it at all.

Better safe than sorry
This idiom is used to recommend being cautious rather than taking a risk.

Better than a stick in the eye
If something is better than a stick in the eye, it isn't very good, but it is better than nothing.

Better the devil you know
This is the shortened form of the full idiom, 'better the devil you know than the devil you don't', and means that it is often better to deal with someone or something you are familiar with and know, even if they are not ideal, than take a risk with an unknown person or thing.

Between a rock and a hard place
If you are caught between a rock and a hard place, you are in a position where you have to choose between unpleasant alternatives, and your choice might cause you problems; you will not be able to satisfy everyone.

Between the devil and the deep blue sea
If you are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, you are in a dilemma; a difficult choice.

Between the lines
If you read between the lines, you find the real message in what you're reading or hearing, a meaning that is not available from a literal interpretation of the words.

Between you and me and the cat's whiskers
This idiom is used when telling someone something that you want them to keep secret.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt
If something's beyond a shadow of a doubt, then absolutely no doubts remain about it.

Beyond belief
If people behave in such a way that you find it almost impossible to accept that they actually did it, then you can say that their behaviour was beyond belief.

Beyond our ken
If something's beyond your ken, it is beyond your understanding.

Beyond the pale
If something's beyond the pale, it is too extreme to be acceptable morally or socially.

Big Apple
(USA) The Big Apple is New York.

Big bucks
If someone is making big bucks, they are making a lot of money.

Big cheese
The big cheese is the boss.

Big Easy
(USA) The Big Easy is New Orleans, Louisiana

Big fish
An important person in a company or an organisation is a big fish.

Big fish in a small pond
A big fish in a small pond is an important person in a small place or organisation.

Big girl's blouse
A person who is very weak or fussy is a big girl's blouse.

Big hitter
A big hitter is someone who commands a lot of respect and is very important in their field.

Big nose
If someone has a big nose, it means they are excessively interested in everyone else's business.

Big picture
The big picture of something is the overall perspective or objective, not the fine detail.

Big time
This can be used to with the meaning 'very much'- if you like something big time, you like it a lot.

Bigger fish to fry
If you aren't interested in something because it isn't important to you and there are more important things for you to do, you have bigger fish to fry.

Bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
'A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush' is a proverb meaning that it is better to have something that is certain than take a risk to get more, where you might lose everything.

Bird's eye view
If you have a bird's eye view of something, you can see it perfectly clearly.

Bird-brain
Someone who has a bird-brain, or is bird-brained, is stupid.

Birds and the bees
If a child is taught about the birds and the bees, they are taught about sex.

Birds of a feather flock together
This idiom means that people with similar interests will stick together.

Birthday suit
If you are in your birthday suit, you are naked.

Bit between your teeth
If you take or have the bit between your teeth, you take or have control of a situation. (Bit = piece of metal in a horse's mouth)

Bit part
If someone has a small or unimportant role in something, they have a bit part.

Bit player
A bit player has a small or unimportant role in something.

Bite off more than you can chew
If you bite off more than you can chew, you take on more responsibilities than you can manage. 'Don't bite off more than you can chew' is often used to advise people against agreeing to more than they can handle.

Bite someone's head off
If you bite someone's head off, you criticise them angrily.

Bite the bullet
If you have to bite the bullet, you have to accept or face something unpleasant because it cannot be avoided.

Bite the dust
This is a way of saying that somebody has died, especially if they are killed violently like a soldier in battle.

Bite your lip
If you have to bite your lip, you have to make a conscious effort not to react or to keep quiet about something that displeases you.

Bite your tongue
If you bite your tongue, you refrain from speaking because it is socially or otherwise better not to.

Bits and bobs
Bits and bobs are small, remnant articles and things- the same as 'odds and ends'.

Bitter end
If you do something to the bitter end, you do it to the very end, no matter how unsuccessful you are.

Bitter pill to swallow
A bitter pill to swallow is something that is hard to accept.

Black and white
When it is very clear who or what is right and wrong, then the situation is black and white.

Black as Newgate's knocker
(UK) If things are as black as Newgate's knocker, they are very bad. Newgate was an infamous prison in England, so its door knocker meant trouble.

Black hole
If there is a black hole in financial accounts, money has disappeared.

Black sheep
Someone who is the black sheep doesn't fit into a group or family because their behaviour or character is not good enough.

Blackball
If you vote against allowing someone to be a member of an organisation or group, you are blackballing him or her.

Blank cheque
If you are given a blank cheque, you are allowed to use as much money as you need for a project.

Bleeding edge
Similar to 'cutting edge', this implies a technology or process that is at the forefront or beyond current practices. However, because it is unproven, it is often dangerous to use (hence the 'bleeding').

Bleeding heart
A bleeding heart is a person who is excessively sympathetic towards other people.

Bless your pointy little head
This expression is used as to patronise someone, especially when they don't realise that they're not very clever.('Bless your pointes little head' is also used.)

Blessing in disguise
If some bad luck or misfortune ultimately results in something positive, it's a blessing in disguise.

Blind as a bat
If you are in total darkness and can't see anything at all, you are as blind as a bat.

Blind leading the blind
When the blind are leading the blind, the people in charge of something don't know anything more than the people they are in charge of, when they should have greater knowledge.

Blink of an eye
If something happens in the blink of an eye, it happens so fast it is almost impossible to notice it.

Blood and thunder
An emotional speech or performance is full of blood and thunder.

Blood from a turnip
It is impossible to get something from someone if they don't have it, just as you cannot get blood from a turnip.

Blood is thicker than water
This idiom means that family relationships are stronger than others.

Blood is worth bottling
(AU) If an Australian says to you "Your blood is worth bottling", he/she is complimenting or praising you for doing something or being someone very special.

Blood out of a stone
If something is like getting blood out of a stone, it is very difficult indeed.

Blood, sweat and tears
If something will take blood, sweat and tears, it will be very difficult and will require a lot of effort and sacrifice.

Blow a gasket
If you blow a gasket, you get very angry.

Blow by blow
A blow-by-blow description gives every detail in sequence.

Blow hot and cold
If you blow hot and cold on an idea, your attitude and opinion keeps changing; one minute you are for it, the next you are against.

Blow me down
People say '(well,) blow me down' when you have just told them something surprising, shocking or unexpected. ('Blow me down with a feather' is also used.)

Blow off steam
(USA) If you blow off steam, you express your anger or frustration.

Blow out of the water
If something, like an idea, is blown out of the water, it is destroyed or defeated comprehensively.

Blow smoke
(USA) If people blow smoke, the exaggerate or say things that are not true, usually to make themselves look better.

Blow the cobwebs away
If you blow the cobwebs away, you make sweeping changes to something to bring fresh views and ideas in.

Blow the whistle
If somebody blows the whistle on a plan, they report it to the authorities.

Blow your mind
Something that will blow your mind is something extraordinary that will amaze you beyond explanation.

Blow your own horn
If you blow your own horn, you boast about your achievements and abilities. ('Blow your own trumpet' is an alternative form.)

Blow your own trumpet
If someone blows their own trumpet, they boast about their talents and achievements. ('Blow your own horn' is an alternative form.)

Blow your stack
If you blow your stack, you lose your temper.

Blow your top
If someone blows their top, they lose their temper.

Blue blood
Someone with blue blood is royalty.

Blue-eyed boy
Someone's blue-eyed boy is their favourite person.

Bob's your uncle
(UK) This idiom means that something will be successful: Just tell him that I gave you his name and Bob's your uncle- he'll help you.

Body politic
A group of people organised under a single government or authority (national or regional) is a body politic.

Bold as brass
Someone who is as bold as brass is very confident and not worried about how other people will respond or about being caught.

Bolt from the blue
If something happens unexpectedly and suddenly, it is a bolt from the blue.

Bone of contention
If there is an issue that always causes tension and arguments, it is a bone of contention.

Bone to pick
If you have a bone to pick with someone, you are annoyed about something they have done and want to tell them how you feel.

Boot is on the other foot
When the boot's on the other foot, a person who was in a position of weakness is now in a position of strength.

Born to the purple
Someone who is born to the purple is born in a royal or aristocratic family. ("Born in the purple" is also used.)

Born with a silver spoon in your mouth
If you are born with a silver spoon in your mouth, you are born into a rich family.

Both ends meet
If you make both ends meet, you live off the money you earn and don't go into debt.

Bottom line
In accountancy, the bottom line is net income, and is used idiomatically to mean the conclusion.

Bounce ideas
If you bounce ideas off someone, you share your ideas with them to know whether they think they would work.

Bounce off the walls
If someone's bouncing off the walls, they are very excited about something.

Bouquet of orchids
Id someone deserves a bouquet of orchids, they have done something worthy of praise.

Box and dice
Box and dice means everything.

Box clever
(UK) If you box clever, you use your intelligence to get what you want, even if you have to cheat a bit.

Boxing and coxing
If people are boxing and coxing, they are sharing responsibilities so that one of them is working while the other isn't. It can also be used when couples are sharing a house, but their relationship has broken down and when one is at home, the other stays out.

Boys in blue
The boys in blue are the police.

Brain surgery
If something is not brain surgery, it isn't very complicated or difficult to understand or master.

Brass monkey
If it's brass monkey weather, or cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey, it is extremely cold.

Brass neck
(UK) Someone who has the brass neck to do something has no sense of shame about what they do.

Brass tacks
If you get down to brass tacks, you get down to the real business. .

Bread and butter
Bread and butter issues are ones that affect people directly and in a very important way.

Breadwinner
Used to describe the person that earns the most money. For example - She's the breadwinner in the family.

Break a leg
This idiom is a way of wishing someone good luck.

Break even
If you break even, you don't make any money, but you don't lose any either.

Break ground
If you break ground, or break new ground, you make progress, taking things into a new area or going further than anyone has gone before. 'Ground-breaking' is used an adjective.

Break the back of the beast
If you break the back of the beast, you accomplish a challenge.

Break the ice
When you break the ice, you get over any initial embarrassment or shyness when you meet someone for the first time and start conversing.

Break your duck
(UK) If you break your duck, you do something for the first time.

Break your heart
If someone upsets you greatly, they break your heart, especially if they end a relationship.

Breathe down your neck
If someone follows you or examines what you're doing very closely, they are breathing down your neck.

Breathe life into
If you breathe life into something, you give people involved more energy and enthusiasm again. ('Breathe new life' is also used.)

Breathe your last
When you breathe your last, you die.

Bridge the gap
If you bridge the gap, you make a connection where there is a great difference.

Bright and breezy
When someone is cheerful and full of energy, they are bright and breezy.

Bright as a button
A person who is as bright as a button is very intelligent or smart.

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed
If someone's bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, they are full of energy and enthusiasm.

Brighten up the day
If something brightens up your day, something happens that makes you feel positive and happy all day long.

Bring a knife to a gunfight
If someone brings a knife to a gunfight, they are very badly prepared for something.

Bring home the bacon
A person who brings home the bacon earns the money that a family live on.

Bring on board
To make people embrace the ideas intended by the leader or agree to join a team or project is to bring them on board.

Bring someone to book
If somebody is brought to book, they are punished or made to account for something they have done wrong.

Bring someone to heel
If you bring someone to heel, you make them obey you.('Call someone to heel' is also used.)

Bring the house down
Something that brings the house down is acclaimed and praised vigorously.

Bring to the table
If you bring something to the table, you make a contribution or an offer in a discussion or negotiation..

Broad church
If an organisation is described as broad church, it is tolerant and accepting of different opinions and ideas.

Broad strokes
If something is described or defined with broad stokes, then only an outline is given, without fine details.

Broke as a joke and it ain't funny
This idiom in my opinion describes how it's not funny to be without a cent and just uses broke and joke as rhyming words that help explain this idiom a lot better.

Brown nose
When someone tries to make themselves popular with somebody, usually in a position of authority, especially by flattering them, they are brown nosing.

Brownie points
If you try to earn Brownie points with someone, you do things you know will please them.

Brush under the carpet
If you brush something under the carpet, you are making an attempt to ignore it, or hide it from others.

Buggles' turn
(UK) If it Buggles' turn, someone gets promotion through length of service rather than ability, especially in the British civil service.

Bull in a China shop
If someone behaves like a bull in a China shop, they are clumsy when they should be careful.

Bull market
A bull market is a period when investors are optimistic and there are expectations that good financial results will continue.

Bull session
If you have a bull session, you have an informal group discussion about something.

Bull-headed
If you're a bull-headed, you're stubborn or inflexible.

Bums on seats
The people who have paid to watch a performance are bums on seats.

Bun in the oven
If a woman has a bun in the oven, she is pregnant.

Bundle of nerves
Someone who is a bundle of nerves is very worried or nervous.

Bur under my saddle
A bur under your saddle is something that annoys you or spurs you into action.('Burr' is an alternative spelling.)

Burn rubber
If you burn rubber, you drive very fast to get somewhere.

Burn the candle at both ends
Someone who burns the candle at both ends lives life at a hectic pace, doing things which are likely to affect their health badly.

Burn the midnight oil
If you stay up very late working or studying, you burn the midnight oil.

Burn your bridges
If you burn your bridges, you do something that makes it impossible to go back from the position you have taken.

Burn your fingers
If you burn your fingers, you suffer a loss or something unpleasant as the result of something you did, making you less likely to do it again.

Burning question
A burning question is something we all want to know about.

Burst at the seams
To be filled to or beyond normal capacity: This room will be bursting at the seams when all the guests arrive.

Bury the hatchet
If you bury the hatchet, you make peace with someone and stop arguing or fighting.

Bury your head in the sand
If someone buries their head in the sand, they ignore something that is obviously wrong.

Busman's holiday
A busman's holiday is when you spend your free time doing the same sort of work as you do in your job.

Bust my chops
When someone says that they're not going to bust their chops, it means they are not going to work that hard or make much effort.

Busted flush
Someone or something that had great potential but ended up a useless failure is a busted flush.

Busy as a beaver
If you're as busy as a beaver, you're very busy indeed.

Busy as a bee
If you are as busy as a bee, you are very busy indeed.

Butt naked
If someone is butt naked, they have no clothes on at all, often when they can be seen.

Butt of a joke
If something or someone becomes the butt of a joke it or they are not taken seriously anymore.

Butter wouldn't melt in their mouth
If someone looks as if butter wouldn't melt in their mouth, they look very innocent.

Butterfingers
Someone who has butterfingers is clumsy and drops things.

Butterflies in your stomach
The nervous feeling before something important or stressful is known as butterflies in your stomach.

Button your lip
If you button your lip, you keep quiet and don't speak. It is also used as a way of telling someone to shut up.

Buy the farm
When somebody has bought the farm, they have died.

By a hair's breadth
If a person escapes from some danger by a hair's breadth, they only just managed to avoid it. The breadth is the thickness of a hair, so they probably feel somewhat lucky because the margin between success and what could easily have been failure was so close.

By a long chalk
(UK) If you beat somebody by a long chalk, you win easily and comfortably.

By a whisker
If you do something by a whisker, you only just manage to do it and come very near indeed to failing.

By and large
By and large means usually or generally.

By cracky
A term used by rural folks in years past to emphasize a matter of importance or urgency. An example: 'By cracky, you need to get out there in the field with that mule and plow and finish the sod-busting before dark.'

By dint of
This means 'as a result of' or 'because of': It would be good to think he'd risen to position of Chief Executive by dint of hard work.

By heart
If you learn something by heart, you learn it word for word.

By hook or by crook
If you are prepared to do something by hook or by crook, you are willing to do anything, good or bad, to reach your goal.

By leaps and bounds
Something that happens by leaps and bounds happens very quickly in big steps.

By the back door
If something is started or introduced by the back door, then it is not done openly or by following the proper procedures.

By the book
If you do something by the book, you do it exactly as you are supposed to.

By the by
This is used as a way of introducing an incidental topic in a conversation or to say that something is irrelevant. ('By the bye' is also used.)

By the numbers
If something is done by the numbers, it is done in a mechanical manner without room for creativity.

By the same token
If someone applies the same rule to different situations, they judge them by the same token: If things go well, he's full of praise, but, by the same token, when things go wrong he gets furious.

By the seat of your pants
If you do something by the seat of your pants, you do it without help from anyone.

By the skin of your teeth
If you do something by the skin of your teeth, you only just manage to do it and come very near indeed to failing.

By word of mouth
If something becomes known by word of mouth, it gets known by being talked about rather than through publicity or advertising, etc.

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