In this video, I explain the meanings and the origins of 22 English idioms about happiness and give examples of use. It’s packed full of idiom information! Many English idioms are about being happy or are related to happiness. Here, you will learn about these common and useful idioms that are about happiness, including the historical origins of many of them. Most of these phrases related to happiness or excitement are used in everyday English. Learn how to express happiness in a sentence in many different ways.
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Video Transcript: Happiness Idioms
There are many English idioms about happiness. They either express being happy or are related to happiness. Here are 22 of the most common, and some not so common, happiness idioms.
This first idiom is one of the only, if not the only English idiom which expresses the idea of being happy all the time…just being a generally happy person.
A happy-go-lucky person is happy all the time and does not worry about anything. I’m always talking about how my cat Petey is so nervous now. He jumps at the slightest noise. But he used to be so happy-go-lucky. Nothing seemed to bother him.
Example: “What is that guy smiling about?” “Who, Vic? He’s just a happy-go-lucky person. That’s just the way he is…”
A happy camper is someone who is happy in their situation; a contented or satisfied person.
Example: “Give me a beer and a good movie to watch and I’m a happy camper.”
To be happy as a lark means to be very happy, excited, delighted, etc. This idiom can be used to describe happiness as a general characteristic, but it’s rarely used this way. It is usually used to describe happiness in reaction to an event or to what one is doing.
Used since at least the first half of the 1800s, the idiom happy as a lark is assumed to allude to the song of the lark, which to human ears seems quite beautiful, melodious, and happy.
Example: “When Mary saw the carousel at the park, she was happy as a lark and rode it for hours.”
This is more of the same. Someone who is happy as a clam is very happy and usually, again, this is a situational idiom.
So why a clam? Well, some people say it is because a clam always looks like it’s smiling. However, the full phrase is “as happy as a clam at full tide” or “in the mud at full tide.” Presumably, the allusion is that a clam in the mud at high tide cannot be dug up, so this is when it’s most happy.
A happy bunny is someone who is happy, satisfied, and or content.
Example: “The electricity was off for two days. Most of my food spoiled. I was not a happy bunny.”
Happy as the Day Is Long
Happy as the day is long can definitely be used to express general happiness, but again, it is especially used to express happiness and contentment with your circumstances or something you are doing. Usually, context will reveal the difference, as in these examples:
“My uncle Frankie was able to retire early. I thought he would be bored but he’s as happy as the day is long.”
Here, although we are talking about circumstances, the context reveals that Uncle Frankie is happy all the time.
“My kids love going to the beach in the summer. They spend all their time playing in the sand, happy as the day is long.”
Clearly, the kids are happy about being at the beach and are having a good time.
Happy as a Pig in Mud/Muck/Clover
Like the previous ones, this one means to be thrilled with your circumstances or what you’re doing. There is a more vulgar version alluding to feces, which is quite insulting to pigs. Pigs do enjoy the occasional mud bath but this is to cool down and keep the bugs away. They don’t like being in mud all the time any more than you do. They are also apparently fond of clover. Although the clover version is heard occasionally in the US it’s used most often in Britain.
Example: “I’m glad Joseph left that banking job. He’s back to being a chef again and he’s as happy as a pig in muck.”
To be tickled pink means to be very pleased by something or amused by it or entertained by it. When you are tickled pink by something, you like it and enjoy it and so you’re certainly happy. However, this idiom does not describe a prolonged state of happiness but a momentary one. As well, you don’t have to be tickled pink, you can just be tickled.
Example: “Bob was tickled pink when over fifty people showed up for his book signing.”
Grinning From Ear to Ear
This idiom really means to look happy because one is smiling broadly. In fact, we sometimes here the alternative ‘smiling from ear to ear.’ It alludes to a smile so wide it stretches from one ear to the other. While it can describe just the appearance of happiness, such as when, for instance, smiling widely for a photo, it often describes a true state of happiness, especially in proud moments when something important has been accomplished.
Example: “The whole team was grinning from ear to ear when they won the playoffs.”
Bursting with Joy
To be bursting with joy alludes to being so joyful and happy that you are filled to the bursting point. There is so much happiness in your heart it’s about to burst out.
There are a number of similar alternatives. You can be bursting with excitement, or bursting with pride. In fact, in English, you can use any noun that describes a positive emotional state, or even a negative one and you will be understood. You can say “I was bursting with anger” and, idiomatically, this would be perfectly understandable, if a bit unusual. You can also use this idiom in an ironic way, especially when someone asks you a dumb question like “How did you feel about losing your job?” Well, it’s not like I was bursting with joy about it.”
Example: “When I got my first acting role, I was bursting with joy.”
On Top of the World
If you’re on top of the world, you’re feeling great. You’re very happy to the point of being ecstatic. Sometimes, when the word sitting is added, this idiom takes on a slightly different meaning, to describe being in a good place or state of advantage or power, and being, of course, happy about it.
“My sister is not the top lawyer in a huge law firm. She’s sitting on top the world.”
“All my life, I’ve dreamed of visiting Paris. Now that I’m here, I’m on top of the world.”
To be on cloud nine is to be extremely happy and full of bliss. The idiom alludes to sitting on a cloud, of course. Clouds are associated with angels and heaven, so of course, they are connected with happiness. But, why nine? Well, there is a related idiom, in seventh Heaven, coming up, but this idiom isn’t seeking to outdo the other by alluding to being up two additional levels!
No, most likely the origin can be found in the International Cloud Atlas from 1896. In 1890, a group of meteorologists from various countries got together and they attempted to establish an international cloud classification system. They agreed on ten classes, or levels. The cumulonimbus cloud became cloud nine. Now, these clouds are associated with rain showers and thunderstorms. In fact, they were called thunder clouds or shower clouds. But they are big and fluffy, perfect for sitting on. And, well, cloud nine just sounds better than cloud six or cloud ten.
Example: “I remember when I got my first check after going full-time earning my living on the internet. I was on cloud nine.”
Over the Moon
To be over the moon about something is to be delighted by it. Very happy and pleased. This probably comes from the old nursery rhyme from the 1800s which involved, among other improbable occurrences, a cow jumping over the moon. In children’s picture books this cow usually looks quite happy to be leaping over the moon.
Example: “My dad is having a swimming pool built and he’s just over the moon about it. Wait until he sees how expensive it is to maintain.”
Walking On Air
To be walking on air means to be exuberant, joyful, happy. I think you’re getting the idea.
This is a good opportunity to clear up a potential source of confusion with idioms. If you use idiom dictionaries to learn about idioms, well, some have an unfortunate tendency to use a root word in many idioms when another form of the word is always used. Here, we never say walk on air or walked on air. If you said “my sister walked on air” well, people would look at you as if you had ten heads. It would sound like you meant it literally. The same thing goes for bursting with joy. You would never say, “I burst with joy.” It just doesn’t sound right. The present participle is always used in the actual idioms.
The idiom walking on air alludes to being so happy you feel like you’re floating, you have a feeling of lightness inside.
Example: The state fair starts today and the kids are walking on air. They look forward to it all year.”
Have a Whale of a Time
To have a whale of a time means to have a very enjoyable experience.
I think the word whale is used simply because a whale is such a large and impressive animal.
Example: “The kids had a whale of a time at the state fair, as usual.”
Have the Time of Your Life
To have the time of your life is to have a very exciting and enjoyable experience. Although this idiom can mean to have the most enjoyable experience one has ever had, it is often exaggerated.
Example: “We had the time of our lives kayaking this summer.”
Have a Ball
To have a ball also means to have an enjoyable and exciting experience. To enjoy oneself a great deal.
The allusion here is not to a bouncy ball that you play with, but to ballroom dancing or a big fancy and quite formal dance party where everybody dresses up in extravagant clothing.
Example: “How was your vacation?” “Oh, I had a ball. Wish I was still there!”
In Your (or one’s) Element
To be in your element means to be in an environment or situation to which you are naturally suited; to be doing what you enjoy. The word element, here, alludes to a person’s natural or preferred environment.
Example: “When I’m making idioms videos for you, I’m in my element.”
With Bells On
With bells on is used to tell someone that you are looking forward to something happily and are enthusiastic about it. It means you’ll be there ready to celebrate or you’ll be excited and happy to be attending.
Example: “Are you going to meet us at the bar for Mary’s birthday celebration tonight? You betcha, I’ll be there with bells on.”
Grin Like a Cheshire Cat
To grin like a chesire cat is to have a big smile on one’s face and to be very happy with yourself or something you know or have found out. This is usually being happy about something when nobody but you understands what you’re happy about. As well, it usually alludes to being not just happy, but foolishly happy and not being able to control your expressions of happiness. It’s usually used in a continuous sense.
It’s possible to say someone grinned like a chesire cat but we usually say something like “he was grinning like a chesire cat.”
The Chesire cat is most associated with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol. In the story, the Chesire cat had a broad grin planted on its face and would slowly disappear, starting with its tail and ending with its grin, which would remain a few moments after the rest of it had gone. Although Carrol certainly popularized the notion of the Chesire cat, like most of his characters, he was borrowing from an already existing idea.
The actual origin of the Chesire cat is difficult to be certain of, but there are several fanciful stories. I can’t recount them all here but two of the most popular involve the county of Chesire in England, a place of many dairy farms, and a lot of cheesemaking. According to folks in Chesire, the cats there grin because there is so much milk and cream available. Another legend is that cheese was made there which bore a stamp that looked like a grinning cat. It has even been claimed that the cheese was actually made in the shape of a cat that appeared to be grinning and that this cheese was usually cut from the tail first so that the grin was the last to go.
Example: “What’s going on with Clark? He’s been walking around grinning like a Chesire cat all day.”
To paint the town red means to go out and have a lively good time, to go on a drinking spree and visit many bars and nightclubs, to be boisterous and wild.
We do not know the precise origin of this idiom. Many claim that it has to do with the association of the color red with violence and anger, and there are many stories associated with violence and blood, none of them very credible. However, red has just as often been associated with excitement, good times, and extravagance. It may be associated with an earlier phrase “paint it red” and there could be connections with bonfires and allusions to drinking such as “paint the nose red.”
Example: “I’m so happy you got your promotion. Let’s go out and paint the town red.”
To be in seventh heaven means to be extremely happy, blissful, or in a state of ecstasy; to be completely satisfied.
According to Muslim and Jewish religious belief, the Earth is surrounded by seven concentric spheres representing the seven levels of heaven or of righteousness. The seventh and last level is the place of ultimate joy, where God resides. The idiom has been used to refer to a state of bliss since the early 1800s, by religious and non-religious people alike.
Example: “Now that she’s had her baby, Becky is in seventh heaven. She’s always wanted a child!”
- Happy Bunny, a
- On Cloud Nine
- Happy as a Clam
- Happy Camper
- Seventh Heaven, in
- Paint The Town Red
- Happy as a Lark
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