Water Idioms & Collocations

Water Idioms & Collocations

Water is life. Don’t waste it!

According to Seametrics.com, 70% of the human brain is water, while a jellyfish and a cucumber are each 95% water. Just because water is such an important part of everyone and everything and life truly depends on this invaluable resource, we’d like to devote this post to water. We hope it will inspire you to appreciate and save water because nowadays it may be even more important than ever.


Water is not only a noun but also a verb:

Can you water my plants when I’m away? (1)

His eyes watered from the smoke. (2)

Curry always makes my mouth water. (3)

  1. If you water plants, you pour water over them in order to help them to grow.
  2. If your eyes water, tears build up in them because they are hurting or because you are upset.
  3. If food makes your mouth water, it makes you want to eat it, sometimes making your mouth produce liquid (saliva /səˈlaɪvə/). Therefore, mouth-watering food looks or smells extremely nice.

Common verb + water collocations:

In addition, you can slosh water around, which means moving it in different directions. It’s also correct to say that water sloshes:

Don’t slosh too much water on the floor when you’re having a bath.

The water sloshed around the bridge.

If water spurts from somewhere, or if it is spurted, it flows out suddenly with force:

There is air in the line when the water from a faucet spurts out in small, violent rushes instead of having a steady, smooth stream.

This fountain spurts water five stories high.

The burst pipe was spurting water everywhere.

The verb to squirt has the same meaning:

Water squirted out all over the floor. (It came out suddenly with force.)

Water becomes poisonous when people contaminate/pollute it:

100,000 people could fall ill after drinking contaminated water.

Heavy industry pollutes our rivers with chemicals.

If water is filtered, it’s purified:

Boiling is a reliable way to purify water.

Filtering water is a way of purification. If you filter, you pass water through something in order to remove solid pieces or other harmful substances:

The water was filtered to remove any impurities.

The use of sand for water filtration dates back 2,000 years. 

Finally, water can be turned off and then turned on by plumbers fixing your pipes:

They turned the water off for a few hours to do some work on the pipes.They turned it on in a few hours. 

A few common adjective + water collocations:

  • Lukewarm /ˌluːkˈwɔːm/ (slightly warm) water: Lukewarm water is great for washing your face.
  • Tepid (slightly warm) water: The regular drinking of tepid water will provide many benefits for you body.
  • Brackish (salty, dirty and unpleasant) water: Brackish water is saltier than fresh water but not as bad as seawater. 
  • Fresh water – water that is not salt: Rivers, lakes, and marshlands are types of freshwater (adj.) systems.
  • Running water: All the rooms have hot and cold running water. (Running water is supplied through pipes and taps.) Also, running water is flowing water: The forest was filled with the sound of running water.
  • Hard water (water that has high mineral content): More than 85% of American homes have hard water.
  • Soft water (water that contains low concentrations of ions): Most water in Japan is soft water.


  • Murky/uncharted waters a situation that is not well known and may be dangerous: We’ve entered the murky waters of human psychology. The economy has moved into uncharted waters. (Murky /ˈmɜː(r)ki/ means dark and difficult to see through, and uncharted means not shown on any map.)
  • Troubled waters – a difficult situation, especially where there is a lot of disagreement and problems: We don’t want to enter the troubled waters of race and religion.
  • To pour oil on troubled waters – to try to make an angry situation calmer: My husband’s always arguing with my father, and I’m the one who has to pour oil on troubled waters.
  • To be (all) water under the bridgesomething that happened in the past, cannot be changed and so should be forgotten: Say that our love ain’t water under the bridge. (from “Water Under the Bridge” by Adele; our post about idioms in Adele’s songs is here.)
  • (To be like) water off a duck’s backcriticisms of or warnings to a particular person that have no effect on that person: All those things he said to me were just water off a duck’s back. I’ve told him that he’s heading for trouble, but he doesn’t listen – it’s just water off a duck’s back.
  • To take to something like a duck to water – to learn how to do something very easily: She took to dancing like a duck to water. (To take to something means to start doing something regularly. It can also mean to start to like someone or something.)
  • To be/feel like a fish out of water – to feel uncomfortable because you feel you do not belong in a place or situation: I felt like a fish out of water in my new school.
  • To be in deep water / to get into deep water – to be in a difficult/serious situation: We are getting into deep water. The Democrats are in deep water over their plans for tax increases.
  • To be in hot water – to be in a difficult situation in which you are likely to be punished: She got herself in hot water with the authorities. He is in hot water over the way he does business.
  • To be dead in the water – to be completely unlikely to succeed: The peace process is now dead in the water.
  • To hold waterto seem to be true or reasonable: The jury convicted her because her story just didn’t hold water. The idiom is used to talk about reasons, arguments or explanations. 
  • To pour/throw cold water on something – to do or say something that spoils someone’s plans or enthusiasm for doing something: He’s always throwing cold water on her ideas.
  • To test the water/watersto find out whether something is likely to be successful before you do or try it: Candidates like to test the waters before running for office.
  • Come hell or high water (impolite) – in spite of any problems or difficulties: I’ll do it, come hell or high water.
  • To keep your head above water – to manage to live or keep a business working even though you are not earning much money: Although I’ve been out of a job for three months, I’ve managed to keep my head above water.

We’d like to finish with “Head Above Water,” a beautiful song about overcoming obstacles and being strong. Enjoy and keep your head above water at all times!

The lyrics are here.

Some useful vocabulary from the song:

  • The calm before the storma quiet or peaceful period before a period during which there is great activity, argument, or difficulty: I’ve gotta keep the calm before the storm.
  • Driving force – something that motivates somebody: My voice becomes the driving force.
  • To keep it together – to remain calm and collected in a stressful situation: I can’t seem to keep it all together.

Do you have any questions about this or other vocabulary from the song or this article? Please post your comment below and we’ll be happy to help. Thank you for reading!

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