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Middle French & Late Latin; Middle French idiome, from Late Latin idioma individual peculiarity of language, from Greek idiōmat-, idiōma, from idiousthai to appropriate, from idios


b : the syntactical, grammatical, or structural form peculiar to a language
  • 2: an expression in the usage of a language that is peculiar to itself either grammatically (as no, it wasn't me) or in having a meaning that cannot be derived from the conjoined meanings of its elements (as Monday week for “the Monday a week after next Monday”)
  • 3: a style or form of artistic expression that is characteristic of an individual, a period or movement, or a medium or instrument <the modern jazz idiom>; broadly : manner, style <a new culinary idiom>


Idiom (Latin: idioma, "special property", f. Greek: ἰδίωμα – idiōma, "special feature, special phrasing", f. Greek: ἴδιος – idios, "one’s own") is an expression, word, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is comprehended in regard to a common use of that expression that is separate from the literal meaning or definition of the words of which it is made. There are estimated to be at least 25,000 idiomatic expressions in the English language.

In linguistics, idioms are usually presumed to be figures of speech contradicting the principle of compositionality; yet the matter remains debated. In phraseology, they are defined in a similar way as a sub-type of phraseme whose meaning is not the regular sum of the meanings of its components. John Saeed defines an "idiom" as words collocated that became affixed to each other until metamorphosing into a fossilised term. This collocation—words commonly used in a group—redefines each component word in the word-group and becomes an idiomatic expression. The words develop a specialized meaning as an entity, as an idiom. Moreover, an idiom is an expression, word, or phrase whose sense means something different from what the words literally imply. The idiom "beating around the bush" means to hint or discuss obliquely; nobody is literally beating any person or thing, and the bush is a metaphor. When a speaker uses an idiom, the listener might mistake its actual meaning, if he or she has not heard this figure of speech before. Idioms usually do not translate well; in some cases, when an idiom is translated into another language, either its meaning is changed or it is meaningless.[1]