Bodily expressions IX: Blood, sweat & tears, skin & bones, nerves & sinews

The Price of Victory. Blood, Sweat, Tears. Sweat---Our Contribution (Wikimedia Commons)

The Price of Victory. Blood, Sweat, Tears. Sweat—Our Contribution (Wikimedia Commons)

Continuing Glossophilia’s 10-part series on bodily expressions.

We’ve gathered all the phrases and expressions we can possibly think of that make use of bodily parts in all their glory — and divided them into ten broad categories* descending from head to toe (and then some …). We’ve left out one- and two-word euphemistic adjectives and tried to avoid expressions that refer too literally to our actual limbs, organs or orifices; what follows are phrases that tend towards the metaphorical and poetic, even though some can also be taken more literally.

Here we have phrases using blood, sweat and tears, skin and bone, nerves, veins and sinews — the more visceral matter and machinery of our very beings. Up next, our grand Hallowe’en finale: where skeletons and bodies (dead or alive) take their place in our daily idioms…


1. It makes my blood boil

2. To get blood from/out of a stone

3. Someone’s flesh and blood

4. To sweat blood

5. A blood brother

6. To be after someone’s blood

7. It’s in my blood

8. It runs in the blood

9. Blood, sweat and tears

10. To burst a blood vessel

11. To have fresh blood

12. It makes my blood run cold

13. It’s too rich for our blood

14. A young blood

15. To bay for someone’s blood

16. To be out for blood

17. Blood is thicker than (water)

18. Blood will tell

19. To have blood on one’s hands

20. In cold blood

21. There’s bad blood between them

22. Blood will have blood

23. To smell blood


1. In the same vein (as)


1. To sweat it out

2. Blood, sweat and tears

3. To break into a cold sweat

4. Don’t sweat it!

5. To sweat bullets

6. To work up a sweat

7. By the sweat of one’s brow

8. To sweat blood

9. He’s sweating buckets

10. Don’t sweat the small stuff


1. Blood, sweat and tears

2. To bore to tears

3. Crying crocodile tears

4. It will end in tears

5. To be moved/reduced to tears

6. A vale of tears

7. She didn’t shed a tear


1. To get on someone’s nerves

2. A bundle of nerves

3. A lot of nerve

4. To get up enough nerve (to do something)

5. What a nerve! / Of all the nerve!


1. To stiffen the sinews

2. To muscle someone out of something

3. To muscle in on something or someone

4. She didn’t move a muscle

5. To flex one’s muscles

6. To get beer muscles


1. A bone of contention

2. To bone up on

3. Sticks and stones may break my bones

4. To be a bag of bones

5. To be bad to the bone

6. To be bone idle

7. To be cut to the bone

8. I have a bone to pick with you

9. To be dry as a bone

10. To be chilled to the bone

11. To be like a dog with a bone

12. He doesn’t have a [mean/jealous/spiteful] bone in his body

13. She made no bones about it

14. He’s [all] skin and bones

15. The bare bones

16. To throw someone a bone

17, To jump someone’s bones

18. To wear your fingers to the bone

19. To roll the bones

20. I can feel it in my bones

21. To be laid to the bone

22. To be silked to the bone


1. To have a thick/thin skin

2. Beauty is only skin deep

3. To be comfortable in one’s own skin

4.  To save one’s own skin

5. To be soaked/drenched to the skin

6. By the skin of one’s teeth

7. It’s no skin off my nose

8. To have something/someone under one’s skin

9. To jump out of one’s skin

10. To knock someone some skin

11. He’s nothing but skin and bones

[12. To save one’s bacon [I know; eww]

[13. Thorn in the flesh]


* Categories:

I: Hair, heads & brains
II: Eyes & ears
III: Faces, noses & mouths, teeth, cheeks & chins
IV: Necks, throats & shoulders
V: Chests, breasts & hearts
VI: Arms & hands, fingers & thumbs
VII: Bellies & bottoms, hips, loins & backs
VIII: Legs, feet, toes & heels
IX: Blood, sweat & tears, skin & bones, nerves, muscles
X: Bodies & skeletons


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