What Books Have Information On Idioms?

There are many books that contain information on American and English idioms, slang, and other expressions. The best books to find information on idioms are idiom dictionaries, however.

Some notable examples of reference books for idioms are the Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms, Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms, Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms, and Chambers Idioms, among many others.

The Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms contains 6,000 entries, while the Wordsworth has fewer, but separates them into formal, informal, and slang.

These dictionaries, among others, are used to research the entries on this site, along with many other sources of historical information.

There are other books which explore all sorts of expressions, including idioms, tracing their origin. One example is Let’s Talk Turkey: The Stories Behind America’s Favorite Expressions, by Rosemarie Ostler. My uncle used to say to me, “Don’t take any wooden nickels.” Did you ever wonder if Americans actually ever used wooden nickels? Ostler answers this kind of question.

Other Idiom Dictionaries

  • The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms
  • Bloomsbury Dictionary of Idioms
  • Cassell Dictionary of English Idioms
  • McGraw-Hill’s Dictionary of American Idioms Dictionary
  • NTC’s American Idioms Dictionary (as well as NTC’s Essential American Idioms, especially for non-native speakers of English)
  • The Penguin Dictionary of English Idioms
  • The Sterling Book of Idioms
  • Webster’s New World American Idioms Handbook

Idioms from Other Languages

All languages have their own idioms of course, and English speakers can learn about these, as well. A Book of Russian Idioms Illustrated by M. I. Dubrovin, contains many interesting Russian idioms. Some of these are unique to Russian, and some are familiar, like боится собственной тени (boitsya sobstvennoy teni), to be afraid of one’s own shadow.

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