Idioms #6 [Make]

Make a beeline for

v. phr. To go in a straight line toward. The runner made a beeline for first base. When the bell rang Ted made a beeline for the door of the classroom.

Make a big deal about

v. phr., informal To exaggerate an insignificant event. Jeff said, “I’m sorry I banged into you in the dark. Don’t make a big deal out of it.”

Make a clean breast of

v. phr. To admit (your guilt); tell all about (your wrong doing); confess everything. The police caught the hit-and-run driver and he made a clean breast of his crime. Arthur worried because he cheated on the test, and finally he went to the teacher and made a clean breast of it.

Make a clean sweep of

v. phr. 1. Achieve a complete victory. In 7980 the Reagan Republicans made a clean sweep of the western states. 2. To eliminate thoroughly and completely. The new attorney general is expected to make a clean sweep of all the old administrative personnel.

Make a day of it

v. phr., informal To do something all day. When they go to the beach they take a picnic lunch and make a day of it.

Make a dent in

v. phr., informal To make less by a very small amount; reduce slightly. Usually used in the negative or with such qualifying words as “hardly” or “barely”. John shoveled and shoveled, but he didn’t seem to make a dent in the pile of sand. Mary studied all afternoon and only made a dent in her homework.

Make a difference

v. phr. To change the nature of something or a situation; be important; matter. John’s good score on the test made the difference between his passing or failing the course. It doesn’t make a bit of difference if you are late to my party. I just want you to come.

Make a face

v. phr., informal To twist your face; make an ugly expression on your face (as by sticking out your tongue). The boy made a face at his teacher when she turned her back. The sick boy swallowed the medicine and made a face.

Make a fuss over

v. phr. 1. To quarrel about something or someone. I want you kids to stop fussing about who gets the drumstick. 2. To he excessively concerned about someone or something; worry. Let’s not fuss over such an insignificant problem! 3. To show exaggerated care or preoccupation about a person or an animal. Aunt Hermione is constantly fussing over her old lapdog.

Make a go of

v. phr. To turn into a success. He is both energetic and highly skilled at trading; he is sure to make a go of any business that holds his interest.

Make a hit

v. phr., informal To be successful; be well-liked; get along well. Mary’s new red dress made a hit at the party. Alice was so happy that her boyfriend made a hit with her parents.

Make a killing

v. phr. To earn or suddenly win a very large sum of money. Herb bought a lot of soybean stock when the price was low and sold it when the price went up. Small wonder he made a huge killing.

Make a living

v. phr. To earn one’s livelihood. If you’re good at your job, you can make a better living than if you don’t know what you’re doing. It is easier to make a living in the United States than in many other countries.

Make a long story short

v. phr. To summarize a lengthy narrative. “So, to make a long story short,” he said, “I made a killing on the stock market.”

Make a match

v. phr. To bring a man and woman together for the purpose of an engagement or marriage. Sheila’s aunt is anxious to make a match between her and an attractive, wealthy man.

Make a motion

v. phr. To propose in some committee meeting or legislative group that a certain action be taken. The secretary made a motion that the minutes of the last meeting be accepted.

Make a mountain out of a molehill

To think a small problem is a big one; try to make something unimportant seem important. You’re not hurt badly, Johnny. Stop trying to make a mountain out of a molehill with crying. Sarah laughed at a mistake Betty made in class, and Betty won’t speak to her; Betty is making a mountain out of a molehill.

Make a move

v. phr. 1. To budge; change places. “If you make a move,” the masked gangster said, “I’ll start shooting.” 2. To go home after dinner or a party. “I guess it’s time to make a move,” Roy said at the end of the party.

Make a name for oneself

v. phr. To become recognized in a field of endeavor; become a celebrity. Joe has worked so hard at soybean trading that he made quite a name for himself as a trader. Bill has made a name for himself both as a pianist and as a composer.

Make a night of it

v. phr., informal To spend the whole night at an activity. The dog found the door unlatched and made a night of it. The boys and girls at the dance made a night of it.

Make a nuisance of oneself

v. phr. To constantly bother others. The screaming kids made a nuisance of themselves around the swimming pool.

Make a pass at

v. phr., slang, informal Make advances toward a member of the opposite sex (usually man to a woman) with the goal of seducing the person. We’ve been dating for four weeks but Joe has never even made a pass at me.

Make a pig of oneself

v. phr., informal To overindulge; eat too much. Mary said, “This dessert is so delicious that I am going to make a pig of myself and have some more.”

Make a play for

v. phr., slang To try to get the interest or liking of; flirt with; attract. Bob made a play for the pretty new girl. John made a play for the other boys’ votes for class president.

Make a point

v. phr. To try hard; make a special effort. Used with “of” and a verbal noun. He made a point of remembering to get his glasses fixed. He made a point of thanking his hostess before he left the party.

Make a practice of

v. phr. To make a habit of; do regularly. Make a practice of being on time for work.

Make a racket

v. phr. To cause a lot of noisy disturbance. I wish the kids playing in the street wouldn’t make such a racket while I’m trying to take a nap.

Make a scene

v. phr. To act hysterically; attract unfavorable attention. I didn’t want Kate to make a scene in front of all of those people, so I gave her the money she wanted.

Make a splash

v. phr. To cause a sensation. The brilliant young pianist, barely 14 years old, made quite a splash on the concert circuit.

Make a stab at

v. phr. To try doing something at random without sufficient preparation. The singer was not familiar with the aria but she decided to make a stab at it anyhow.

Make a stand

v. phr. 1. To take a firm position on an issue. He keeps talking about politics hut he never makes a stand for what he believes in. 2. To take up a defensive position against the enemy. The retreating troops decided to make a stand by the river.

Make a touch

v. phr. To borrow money; try to borrow money. He is known to make a touch whenever he is hard up for cash.

Make a virtue of necessity

v. phr. Make the best of things as they are; do cheerfully what you do. After Mr. Wilson lost all his money, he made a virtue of necessity and found a new and interesting life as a teacher.

Make after

v. phr. To chase something; run after something. The mouse escaped from the kitchen corner and the cat made after it.

Make allowance

v. phr. To judge results by the circumstances. Often used in plural. When a small boy is helping you, you must make allowances for his age.

Make an end of

v. phr. To make (something) end; put a stop to; stop. To make an end of rumors that the house was haunted, a reporter spent the night there.

Make an example of

v. phr. To punish (someone) publicly to show what happens when someone does wrong. The teacher made an example of the boy who copied from another student during a test. The Pilgrims made an example of a thief by putting him in the stocks.

Make an exhibition of oneself

v. phr. To behave foolishly or embarrassingly in public. Stop drinking so much and making an exhibition of yourself.

Make away with

v., informal Take; carry away; cause to disappear. The lumberjack made away with a great stack of pancakes. Two masked men held up the clerk and made away with the payroll.

Make believe

v. To act as if something is true while one knows it is not; pretend. Let’s make believe we have a million dollars. Danny made believe he didn’t hear his mother calling.

Make book

v. phr. To serve as a bookmaker taking bets on the horse races. The police were out to prosecute anybody who made book illegally.

Make bricks without straw

v. phr. To make something without the wherewithal; do something the hard way; do a job under hard conditions. John could not go to a library, and writing the report was a job of making bricks without straw. It was making bricks without straw to put on plays in that old barn.

Make conversation

v. phr. To talk with someone just so that there will be talk. John made conversation with the stranger so that he would not feel left out. Mary didn’t really mean what she said about Joan. She was only making conversation.

Make do

v. phr. To use a poor substitute when one does not have the right thing. John did not have a hammer, and he had to make do with a heavy rock. This motel isn’t what we wanted, but we must make do. Many families manage to make do on very little income.

Make ends meet

v. phr. To have enough money to pay one’s bills; earn what it costs to live. Both husband and wife had to work to make ends meet.

Make eyes at

v. phr., informal To look at a girl or boy in a way that tries to attract him to you; flirt. The other girls disliked her way of making eyes at their boyfriends instead of finding one of her own.

Make faces at

v. phr. To grimace; scowl. “Stop making faces at each other, you children,” my aunt said, “and start eating.”

Make for

v. To go toward; start in the direction of. The children took their ice skates and made for the frozen pond. The bee got his load of pollen and made for the hive.

Make free with

v. 1. To take or use (things) without asking. Bob makes free with his roommate’s clothes. A student should not make free with his teacher’s first name. 2. To act toward (someone) in a rude or impolite way. The girls don’t like Ted because he makes free with them.

Make friends

v. phr. To become friends; form a friendship. Mrs. Jones invited Bobby to her home to play with Don. She hoped that they would make friends with each other. You can make friends with an elephant by giving him peanuts.

Make fun of

v. phr., informal To joke about; laugh at; tease; mock. Men like to make fun of the trimmings on women’s hats. James poked fun at the new pupil because her speech was not like the other pupils.

Make good

v. phr. 1. To do what one promised to do; make something come true. Mr. Smith borrowed some money. He promised to pay it back on payday. He made good his promise. Joe made good his boast to swim across the lake. John’s mother promised to take him and his friends to the zoo on Saturday. She made good her promise.
boy’s parents that the boy must make good the money he had stolen or go to jail. Often used in the phrase “make it good”. The radio was broken while it was being delivered so the store had to make it good and send us a new radio.
3. To do good work at one’s job; succeed. Kate wanted to be a nurse. She studied and worked hard in school. Then she got a job in the hospital and made good as a nurse.

Make good time

v. phr. To make unimpeded progress on a journey; arrive at one’s destination sooner than estimated. There was not much traffic on the expressway so we made good time on our way to the airport.

Make haste

v. phr. To move fast; hurry. Rarely used in speaking. The dog wriggled into one end of the hollow log, and the rabbit made haste to get out the other end. Mary saw that she had hurt Jane’s feelings, and made haste to say she was sorry.

Make hay while the sun shines

v. phr. To do something at the right time; not wait too long. Dick had a free hour so he made hay while the sun shone and got his lesson for the next day.

Make head or tail of

v. phr., informal To see the why of; finding a meaning in; understand. Used in negative, conditional, and interrogative sentences. She could not make head or tail of the directions on the dress pattern. Can you make head or tail of the letter?

Make headway

v. phr. To move forward; make progress. The university is making headway with its campus reorganization project.

Make it hot

v. phr., informal To bring punishment; cause trouble. Dick threatened to make it hot for anyone who tied knots in his pajama legs again.

Make it snappy

v. phr., informal To move quickly; be fast; hurry. Usually used as a command. “Make it snappy,” Mother said, “or we’ll be late for the movie.” The man hurried into the restaurant and told the waitress, “A cup of coffee, and make it snappy.”

Make it with

v. phr., slang, informal 1. To be accepted by a group. Joe finally made it with the in crowd in Hollywood. 2. vulgar To have sex with (someone). I wonder if Joe has made it with Sue.

Make light of

v. phr. To treat an important matter as if it were trivial. One ought to know which problems to make light of and which ones to handle seriously.

Make little of

v. phr. To make (something) seem unimportant; belittle. Mary made little of Jane’s new bicycle because she was jealous. Tom made little of his saving the drowning boy.

Make love

v. phr. 1. To be warm, loving, and tender toward someone of the opposite sex; try to get him or her to love you too. There was moonlight on the roses and he made love to her in the porch swing. 2. To have sexual relations with (someone). It is rumored that Alfred makes love to every girl he hires as a secretary.

Make merry

v. phr., literary To have fun, laugh, and be happy, In Aesop’s fable the grasshopper made merry while the ant worked and saved up food. In the Bible story a rich man ate and drank and made merry.

Make mincemeat (out) of

v. phr. To destroy completely. The defense attorney made mincemeat of the prosecution’s argument.

Make much of

v. phr. To make something seem of more worth or importance than it really is; praise. Visitors made much of the new collie. The boy made much of the hard things of his mountain climb.

Make neither head nor tail of

v. phr. To be unable to figure something out. This puzzle is so complicated that I can make neither head nor tail of it.

Make no bones

v. phr., informal 1. To have no doubts; not to worry about right or wrong; not to be against. Used with “about”. Bill makes no bones about telling a lie to escape punishment. The boss made no bones about hiring extra help for the holidays. 2. To make no secret; not keep from talking; admit. Used with “about” or “of the fact”. John thinks being poor is no disgrace and he makes no bones of the fact. Mary made no bones about her love of poetry even after some of her friends laughed at her.

Make of

v. phr. To interpret; understand. What do you make of his sudden decision to go to Africa?

Make off

v. To go away; run away; leave. When the deer saw the hunter it made off at once. A thief stopped John on a dark street and made off with his wallet.

Make one feel at home

v. phr. To be hospitable; welcome; make someone feel at ease. They are very popular hosts because they always manage to make their guests feel at home.

Make one out to be

v. phr. To accuse someone of being something. Don’t make me out to be such a grouch; I am really quite happy-go-lucky.

Make one tick

v. phr. To cause to operate; to motivate. He is so secretive that we are unable to figure out what makes him tick.

Make one’s bed and lie in it

To be responsible for what you have done and so to have to accept the bad results. Billy smoked one of his father’s cigars and now he is sick. He made his bed, now let him lie in it.

Make one’s head spin

v. phr. To be bewildered; be confused. It makes my head spin to think about the amount of work I still have to do.

Make one’s mark

v. phr. To become known to many people; do well the work you started to do; make a reputation. Shakespeare made his mark as a playwright.

Make one’s mouth water

v. phr. 1. To look or smell very good; make you want very much to eat or drink something you see or smell. The pies in the store window made Dan’s mouth water. The picture of the ice cream soda made his mouth water. 2. To be attractive; make you want to have something very much. Judy collects folk song records, and the records in the store window made her mouth water.

Make one’s pile

v. phr. To make one’s fortune. The rich man made his pile in the stock market.

Make one’s way

v. phr. 1. To go forward with difficulty; find a path for yourself. They made their way through the crowd. 2. To do many hard things to earn a living; make a life work for yourself. He was anxious to finish school and make his own way in the world.

Make oneself at home

v. phr. To feel comfortable; act as if you were in your own home. If you get to my house before I do, help yourself to a drink and make yourself at home. John was an outdoor man and could make himself at home in the woods at night.

Make oneself scarce

v. phr., slang To leave quickly; go away. The boys made themselves scarce when they saw the principal coming to stop their noise. A wise mouse makes himself scarce when a cat is nearby.

Make or break

v. phr. To bring complete success or failure, victory or defeat. Playing the role of Hamlet will make or break the young actor.

Make out

v. 1. To write the facts asked for (as in an application blank or a report form); fill out. The teacher made out the report cards and gave them to the students to take home. Mrs. Smith gave the clerk in the store some money and the clerk made out a receipt. 2. To see, hear, or understand by trying hard. It was dark, and we could not make out who was coming along the road. They could not make out what the child had drawn. The book had many hard words and Anne could not make out what the writer meant. Mr. White does many strange things. No one can make him out.
3. informal To make someone believe; show; prove. Charles and Bob had a fight, and Charles tried to make out that Bob started it. The boy said he did not take the money but the teacher found the money in the boy’s desk and it made him out to be a liar. 4. informal Do well enough; succeed. John’s father wanted John to do well in school and asked the teacher how John was making out. The sick woman could not make out alone in her house, so her friend came and helped her. 5. To kiss or pet. What are Jack and Jill up to? They’re making out on the back porch.

 Make over

v. 1. To change by law something from one owner to another owner; change the name on the title (lawful paper) from one owner to another. Mr. Brown made over the title to the car to Mr. Jones. 2. To make something look different; change the style of. He asked the tailor to make over his pants. The tailor cut off the cuffs and put a belt across the back.

Make rounds

v. phr. To travel the same route, making several stops along the way. The milkman makes his rounds every morning. The doctor makes the rounds of the hospital rooms.

Make sense

v. phr. 1. To be something you can understand or explain; not be difficult or strange. The explanation in the school book made no sense because the words were hard.
2. To seem right to do; sound reasonable or practical. Does it make sense to let little children play with matches?

Make short work of

v. phr. To finish rapidly. The cat made short work of the baby rabbit. Tim was anxious to get to the movies so he made short work of his homework.

Make sit up

v. phr. To shock to attention; surprise; create keen interest. Her sudden appearance at the party and her amazingly low-cut dress made us all sit up.

Make something of

v. phr. 1. To make (something) seem important. When girls see another girl with a boy, they often try to make something of it. 2. To start a fight over; use as an excuse to start a quarrel. Bob accidentally shoved Bill in the corridor, and Bill made something of it. Ann didn’t like what Mary said about her. She tried to make something of what Mary said.

Make sure

v. phr. To see about something yourself; look at to be sure. Father makes sure that all the lights are off before he goes to bed. Mary thought she had time to get to school but she ran all the way just to make sure. Before you write your report on the life of Washington you should make sure of your facts.

Make the best of

v. phr. To do something you do not like to do and not complain; accept with good humor. The girl did not like to wash dishes but she made the best of it.

Make the blood boil

v. phr., informal To make someone very angry. When someone calls me a liar it makes my blood boil. It made Mary’s blood boil to see the children make fun of the crippled girl.

Make the feathers fly

v. phr., informal 1. To enjoy working; be strong and work hard. When Mrs. Hale did her spring cleaning she made the feathers fly. 2. See: MAKE THE FUR FLY.

Make the fur fly

v. phr., informal Say or write mean things about someone or to jump on and fight hard. A man fooled Mr. Black and got his money. Mr. Black will really make the fur fly when he finds the man. Mrs. Baker’s dog dug holes in her neighbor’s garden. The neighbor really made the fur fly when she saw Mrs. Baker.

Make the grade

v. phr., informal 1. To make good; succeed. It was clear that Mr. Baker had made the grade in the insurance business. It takes hard study to make the grade in school. 2. To meet a standard; qualify. That whole shipment of cattle made the grade as prime beef.

Make the most of

v. phr. To do the most you can with; get the most from; use to the greatest advantage. She planned the weekend in town to make the most of it. George studied hard. He wanted to make the most of his chance to learn. The teacher went out of the room for five minutes and some bad boys made the most of it. Bill liked Mary; he would do anything for her, and Mary made the most of it.

Make the scene

v. phr., slang To be present; to arrive at a certain place or event. I am too tired to make the scene; let’s go home.

Make time

v. phr., slang 1. To be successful in arriving at a designated place in short or good time. We’re supposed to be there at 6 P.M., and it’s only 5:30 we’re making good time. 2. To be successful in making sexual advances to someone. Joe sure is making time with Sue, isn’t he?

Make tracks

v. phr., informal To go fast; get a speedy start; hurry. Man, it’s time we made tracks! The boys made tracks for home when it began to get dark.

Make up

v. (stress on “up”) 1. To make by putting things or parts together. A car is made up of many different parts. 2. To invent; think and say something that is new or not true. Jean makes up stories to amuse her little brother. 3a. To do or provide (something lacking or needed); do or supply (something not done, lost, or missed); get back; regain; give back; repay. I have to make up the test I missed last week. I want to go to bed early to make up the sleep I lost last night. We have to drive fast to make up the hour we lost in Boston. Vitamin pills make up what you lack in your diet. The toy cost a dollar and Ted only had fifty cents, so Father made up the difference. Often used in the phrase “make it up to”. Uncle Fred forgot my birthday present but he made it up to me by taking me to the circus. Mrs. Rich spent so much time away from her children that she tried to make it up to them by giving them things.
3b. To do what is lacking or needed; do or give what should be done or given; get or give back what has been lost, missed, or not done; get or give instead; pay back. Used with “for”. We made up for lost time by taking an airplane instead of a train. Saying you are sorry won’t make up for the damage of breaking the window. Mary had to make up for the time she missed in school when she was sick, by studying very hard. The beautiful view at the top of the mountain makes up for the hard climb to get there. 4. To put on lipstick and face paint powder. Clowns always make up before a circus show. Tom watched his sister make up her face for her date. 5. To become friends again after a quarrel. Mary and Joan quarreled, but made up after a while.

Make up one’s mind

v. phr. To choose what to do; decide. They made up their minds to sell the house. Tom couldn’t decide whether he should tell Mother about the broken window or let her find it herself.

Make waves

v. phr., informal Make one’s influence felt; create a disturbance, a sensation. Joe Catwallender is the wrong man for the job; he is always trying to make waves.

Make way

v. phr. To move from in front so someone can go through; stand aside. The people made way for the king. When older men retire they make way for younger men to take their places.


n. False; untrue; created by illusion. The creatures of Star Wars are all make-believe.

On the make

adj., slang 1. Promiscuous or aggressive in one’s sexual advances. I can’t stand Murray; he’s always on the make. 2. Pushing to get ahead in one’s career; doing anything to succeed. The new department head is a young man on the make, who expects to be company president in ten years.

Put in an appearance

v. phr. To be present, esp. for a short time; visit; appear. He put in an appearance at work, but he was too ill to stay. The president put in an appearance at several dances the evening after he was sworn in.

Run for it

v. phr. To dash for safety; make a speedy escape. The bridge the soldiers were on started to fall down and they had to run for it. The policeman shouted for the robber to stop, but the robber made a run for if.