Since it’s springtime here in the US, I thought it would be fun to compile a list of spring-related idioms, phrases, and expressions to help you sound more fluent and better understand everyday conversation.
Idioms and Expressions
In like a lion, out like a lamb.
- This expression has nothing to do with animals, but everything to do with weather. You’ll often hear the expression that “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” Early spring weather is not predictable in the US. At the beginning of March, the weather is like a lion — unpredictable, rough, a little blustery and wild. However, near the end of the month the weather has become a bit warmer and milder (at least in most places). This is the lamb — calm, sweet, and mild. You can also use this phrase to talk about any situation or person who starts off a bit aggressive or unpleasant but turns mild and enjoyable in the end. “This week has been a bit crazy. It started off like a lion, but luckily went out like a lamb” or “Oh, Jim. He’s okay, really. He’s just in like a lion, out like a lamb, you know?”
April showers bring May flowers.
- In much of the US, April is a rainy, gloomy month. There are some glorious days, but it’s not uncommon to have more cloudy/rainy days than sunny ones. May is usually a sunnier month with less rainfall. Hence the saying — we remind ourselves that all the rain in April will result in well-watered, beautiful plants and flowers.
Cross to bear
- This expression stems from prisoners having to carry their own crosses to their crucifixions, the most famous of which is Jesus. His crucifixion and resurrection is why Easter is celebrated. Because of that connection to Easter and because Easter is s a spring holiday, I’ve included it. Today, the expression means to carry a figurative burden, or to have to tolerate an unpleasant situation that you can’t change. “I drove drunk and lost my license; that’s my cross to bear.”
Gentle as a lamb
- Lambs are baby sheep. Since they are born in the spring they’re one of the animals most associated with this season. Lambs are seen as sweet, friendly, and cute. So, if someone or something is gentle, mild, or really kind, we say that they are as gentle as a lamb. You’ll hear people say things like “My pit bull would never hurt anyone; he’s gentle as a lamb” or “My boss seems like a jerk, but deep down, he’s gentle as a lamb.”
Spring has sprung
- Americans like word play and puns, which is why we probably like this expression so much. “Spring” has several meanings including, but not limited to: the season (noun), a special type of coil (noun), a source of something — usually water (noun), to jump or leap (verb), to stretch out (verb), and to grow (verb). “Sprung” is the past participle of the verb “spring.” It’s a fun phrase to say because of all of the repetitive “s” sounds, but it also paints a mental picture of everything turning green and growing very quickly, as soon as the weather warms up.
Early bloomer and late bloomer
- As you know, flowers start to bloom in the spring. Some plants bloom early in the season and other bloom late in the season. We use these expressions to talk about when someone’s talents or abilities become visible to others. Someone who is an early bloomer shows their capabilities earlier in life. A late bloomer is someone whose talents don’t show until they are older. You will often hear this in reference to sexual development or romantic activity such as dating or having sex. “She was a late bloomer and didn’t have her first kiss until she was 25” or “John was an early bloomer; he has been athletic since an early age.”
To be a spring chicken
- This is an old-fashioned expression, but you will sometimes still hear it. A “spring chicken” is a young and naive person. You can be a spring chicken or not be a spring chicken, but I hear more people use it in the negative. “I can’t stay out all night partying; I’m no spring chicken” or “I didn’t fall for that phone scam. I’m no spring chicken!” And yes, for some reason the expression is usually “no spring chicken” not “not a spring chicken.” I know it sounds weird, but that’s how I’ve always heard it said.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
- A symbol of spring and Easter is the egg. To put all of your eggs in one basket means to put all of your energy, time, or focus into just one specific thing. That can be a bad thing sometimes because it means that if you fail, you will have lost everything. It’s as if you dropped the basket that held all of your eggs — they’d all be broken and you’d have no eggs. “That’s great that you want to invest in that company’s stock, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
The early bird gets the worm
- In the US, the robin is a bird that is strongly associated with spring. They’re very common and active in the spring. This expression means that the first person or people to arrive get the best of something or has a head start on the competition. “I wanted a really good seat at the concert, so I showed up really early. The early bird gets the worm!” or “I always start my day early before anyone else comes in. It gives me a head start; early bird gets the worm, you know.”
Grow (or bloom) where you’re planted
- This idiom means that you should try to make the best of a difficult situation. Plants don’t have a choice where they are planted, but they still do everything they can to grow and bloom. People should try to do the same. You may not be where you really want to be — figuratively or literally — but you should do everything you can to prosper. “I never imagined that I’d still be in this job 10 years later, but I’m going to try to grow where I’m planted right now until I decide my next move.”