Chapter 11-4:  Colloquialisms & Idioms

Grammar > Diction & Pronunciation > Colloquialisms

According to  (, a colloquialism is a word or phrase used in everyday speech but not formal writing. For example, "y'all" is a colloquialism for "you all" that is common in some parts of the United States.

An idiomatic expression combines words with a symbolic meaning that differs from its literal meaning. For example, "to kick the bucket" is an idiomatic expression that means "to die." Still, it does not mean kicking a bucket.

Colloquialisms and idioms are informal expressions but are not always interchangeable. Some colloquialisms are idioms, such as "to chicken out" (to lose courage). Yet, some are not, such as "a whole nother" (another). Some idioms are also colloquialisms, such as "to hit the nail on the head" (to be exactly right), but some are not, such as "a piece of cake" (something easy).


Although not all of your assignments may request a full-out academic, business, or professional tone concerning word choice, there are still minimal levels in tone or register. Avoid using colloquial, informal, familiar, casual, ordinary, street, slang, clichés, or conversational tones and verb forms for professional and academic texts. Below is a list of common language-level infractions made by students on professional texts:


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Attribution information for this page: Jamie BridgePageID:  eslid22037Page keywords:  common language level errors, language level, register, colloquial