Over The Moon And Other English Idioms Ep 426

A photo of a full moon over the sand dunes in the Sahara desert. Todays English language lesson is all about moon related English idioms.

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Fun With Moon Related English Idioms

As you know I love helping English language learners, you could say I’d go to the moon and back to help students learn English. Many moons ago I started Adept English to help speed up English language learning for as many students as possible. When I shared my ideas with some of my teaching friends, they said I might as well howl at the moon. I started small and didn’t promise the moon, and now we’ve grown and helped many people.

OK, I’m sure there are more moon idioms I could fit into this podcast introduction, I’m sure you get the point by now. This podcast is all about moon related English idioms, and just to make sure you understand them there is a quiz at the end to test your knowledge.

I’m over the moon with the progress we are making (groan!). When we started 4 years ago just 12 people listened to our first podcast and most of those were probably friends and family. Today our English podcast has over 9 million listens and nearly 500 hundred thousand people tune in every month from 115 countries to listen to us.

Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star.
⭐ W. Clement Stone, Businessman

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We recently released our latest podcast back catalogue bundle. Which offers over 7 hours of quality English language listening for just £12. You can learn more about this here.

Most Unusual Words:


Most common 2 word phrases:

The Moon15
Cat Idioms2
Worth Learning2
A Promise2

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The mp3 audio and pdf transcript for this lesson is now part of the Adept English back catalogue . You can still download and listen to this lesson as part of one of our podcast bundles.

Transcript: Over The Moon And Other English Idioms

Hi and welcome to this podcast from Adept English. Another six months has gone by – and that means that we can release another fifty Adept English podcasts. So this podcast bundle will be 50 episodes again, starting at podcast 301 and ending at 350. So that’s over seven hours of great podcast material that you can’t get anywhere else apart from on our website at adeptenglish.com, our ‘back catalogue’, if you like.

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Moon idioms

Let’s carry on today, learning English vocabulary, increasing your knowledge of English idioms, learning for English conversation. We haven’t done any idioms since we looked at ‘Cat Idioms’ back in February. English has so many idioms, they are worth learning specifically. So what about idioms involving the moon today? Not as many of these are there are ‘cat idioms’, but well worth learning.

Vocabulary first of all. The moon, MOON is that little planet that we see, orbiting around the night sky. It’s what affects our seas, our tides – that’s the movement of the sea, TIDES. And as I mentioned in last week’s podcast, 1969 was when we first landed on the moon – a mind-blowing achievement, I think, even to our tech-savvy 2021 heads!

So today six phrases, six English idioms involving the moon. To promise the moon, to be over the moon, once in a blue moon, many moons ago, a moonlight flit and moonshine.

‘To promise the moon’

So the first one – ‘to promise the moon’. The verb ‘to promise’ means ‘to tell someone you’ll do something or you’ll give them something’ as in ‘He promised her a bunch of flowers on her birthday’. There’s the verb ‘to promise’, PROMISE and there’s the noun ‘a promise’, spelt the same. So if you ‘promise someone the moon’, then you’ve promised something you’re unlikely to be able to give.

You’ve promised too much, it’s a promise that cannot be fulfilled – you’ve ‘over-promised’ is another way of saying this. So ‘He promised her the moon’ means that he made unrealistic promises, which couldn’t be fulfilled. It’s not possible to give someone the moon is it – it can’t belong to anyone.

‘Over the moon’

What about if someone says ‘Oh, I was over the moon’? Well, here the person is meaning that they were delighted, very, very happy – ‘over the moon’. It’s the sort of feeling you might get when someone has just had a baby, or someone’s just got married, or I guess, if you won the lottery or made a lot of money, you might get this feeling. ‘She’s over the moon’.


Portrait of cute baby lying on bed and posing as an astronaut. As we discuss English idioms related to the moon.

©️ Adept English 2021

The origin seems to be a nursery rhyme which is familiar to English speakers. It goes like this ‘Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon. The little dog laughed to see such fun and the dish ran away with the spoon’. It’s just nonsense – it’s a nursery rhyme and it’s the kind of thing that British children learn. I guess ‘over the moon’ goes with the idea of a good mood being ‘high’ – you might say someone is ‘high in the clouds’ or ‘on cloud nine’ if they’re really happy. So ‘over the moon’ is even higher up, even happier than ‘on cloud nine’ perhaps.

‘Once in a blue moon’

If someone says ‘once in a blue moon’, then this is an expression about frequency, about how often something happens. So ‘once’, ONCE means one time – just as ‘twice’, TWICE means two times. There is also a word in English for ‘three times’ and that’s ‘thrice’, THRICE, but that one isn’t much used now. So that’s once, twice, thrice. So ‘once in a blue moon’ means ‘not very often’.

This saying is really old – and it’s like saying ‘when the moon is blue’, which of course it almost never is – it’s silvery or white. So ‘When the moon is blue’ means ‘never’ or ‘hardly ever’. More recently ‘a blue moon’ has become a technical term, used for the second full moon within a calendar month, which sometimes happens. A full moon is when you can see all of it – it’s a full circle, not part of a circle like it sometimes is. So ‘once in a blue moon’ is an idiom that’s older than that second meaning – and ‘once in a blue moon’ means ‘hardly ever’.

‘Many moons ago’

And the phrase ‘many moons ago’ has a similar kind of meaning. If you say something happened ‘many moons ago’, then it was a long time ago. The word ‘moon’ is pluralised here to refer to the rising and setting of the moon on many occasions, on many nights. So ‘many moons ago’, means ‘many rising and settings of the moon ago’, if you like.

People use this phrase to talk about something that used to be the case, a description of how something used to be. People use this phrase wistfully perhaps when talking about the past. ‘Many moons ago, you could get served in a pub without showing your ID for your age’. ‘Many moons ago, you could park wherever you liked on the High Street’. Or ‘Many moons ago, I dated a scientist’.

‘Wistful’ means that you’re thinking affectionately about times past and maybe wishing things were still the same. That’s WISTFUL, with an -LY on the end, for the adverb.

‘A moonlight flit’

What about ‘a moonlight flit’? So here ‘moonlight’, is of course a compound word – made of moon and light, LIGHT – so referring to the light given off by the moon. And a flit, FLIT? Well, that’s not a common word, but it’s related to the word ‘flight’, FLIGHT. And it doesn’t mean the usual kind of flight – as in a journey on a plane. No, this flight is meaning ‘running away’ – you ‘take flight’, ‘you run off, you run away’. So a ‘moonlight flit’ refers to when someone leaves a place suddenly, secretly, under cover of darkness, at night. And usually this leaving is done in such a way as to go without fulfilling your obligations.

You might do a moonlight flit, to avoid paying the rent, or you might do a ‘moonlight flit’ to escape from a bad relationship. Another more formal word for this would be ‘to abscond’ – ABSCOND – to disappear when you’re not supposed to. Apart from the formality of the language, the only difference between doing ‘a moonlight flit’ and absconding is that you can abscond during the day!



And our last expression today involving the moon – this one is a word, rather than an idiom, ‘moonshine’. Again a compound word from ‘moon’, MOON and ‘shine’, SHINE. So ‘moonshine’ refers to alcohol, which is made without licence, without official authorisation.

It’s illegal in other words – against the law. And we aren’t talking about ‘home brew’ here – we’re not talking about making beer or wine at home. You have been able to do that legally in the UK, since 1963. And you can make as much beer or wine at home, as long as only you drink it – it’s not for selling. On the other hand, ‘moonshine’ is strong liquor – spirits, if you like – alcohol which is more than 40% proof – strong like vodka.

If you’re really determined, you can make liquor, LIQUOR, or strong alcohol out of all kinds of things. The difference is that it’s ‘distilled’, so that’s from the verb ‘to distil’, DISTIL. And that’s where the word ‘distillery’ comes from. So whisky or vodka are ‘distilled’. This means that you separate off the alcohol, making the drink stronger, more alcoholic. In most countries it’s illegal to do this without a licence. So if you do this illegally, then ‘moonshine’ is the term used for the alcohol that you’ve produced. And it’s called ‘moonshine’ because illegal distilling would often have been done at night, under cover of darkness, so you might see the reflection of the moon, shining in the liquid.

Download The Podcast Audio & Transcript

This term ‘moonshine’ was first used in the UK, when laws were passed to tax the sale of alcohol. But the term ‘moonshine’ really became popular and very much used, during ‘Prohibition’, the Prohibition Period in the United States, that’s 1920-1933 – when alcohol was illegal. And people would distil and buy and sell ‘moonshine’ made from all kinds of things – prunes, raisins, root vegetables, corn, rye.

Quiz on ‘Moon Idioms’

So there we have it – six phrases using the word ‘moon’. Do you remember what they mean? Why not test your learning? For English comprehension, idioms are good to learn. Here are the definitions again briefly – see if you can remember which idiom or expression about the moon, goes with each of these definitions.

  1. To leave a place secretly in the middle of the night
  2. To be really happy and delighted
  3. A phrase meaning ‘very rarely’.
  4. Illegal alcohol.
  5. A phrase meaning ‘a long time ago’
  6. An idiom meaning to promise things that are entirely unrealistic.

See how you do at that little quiz.


OK. Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.




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