Top 20 Success Idioms List


success idioms

Many phrases about success can be specific to a situation or type of event. In our list below we will try to explain not only what these particular success idioms mean but also where and how to use them.

No hidden meanings here, this idiom means you need to dress in clothes or such a fashion that others believe you to be a success in life. We can use it when going for a job interview or a new work proposal.

  • I am going to dress for success and put on my best suit for the interview.

2. You have got to be in it to win it!

Often used for competitions this phrase is what’s called a call to action too. It encourages the listener to join in a competition, or another exclusive event, to have a chance of winning or being successful.

  • Sign up now; you’ve got to be in it to win it!

Just like an actual key opens a door, we can apply this idiom to the thing that is most important to being successful. It has many different uses in both a working environment or in general speech.

The key to success as a salesman is communication.

  • Practice is the key to success.

4. Be a howling success

While the word howl is typically used to describe a loud continuous noise, a howling success is a colloquial expression. It is most frequently used to describe something in the present or past that was very successful.

  • Because the first iPhone was a revolutionary product, it became a howling success.
  • Everyone hopes the new iPhone X will be a howling success too.

5. Hit a home run

Hit a home run is an expression that comes from the sport of Baseball. When a player hits a ball out of the reach of the other team, it was considered a home run and one point was awarded. This phrase, therefore, has become a standard reference about being successful.

  • You hit a home run with that last sale!

6. It’s in the bag

When someone is very confident that they will be successful, a person could use this idiom to show how sure they are of success.

  • Don’t worry; I will finish the report in time. It’s in the bag!

7. Rags to riches

Rags is a reference to the lousy state of clothing a person who is poor and living in the street may wear. However, rags to riches is used to describe the success of a person who was once very poor and has now become rich or wealthy.

  • The new movie they are making is about rags to riches story and how the main character overcame all of the problems he faced.

8. Bear / born fruit

A tree that grows and produces fruit is considered to be successful, therefore when something works well, correctly or successfully we can say it has born fruit.

  • Once we start advertising the new restaurant, we will see it bear fruit.
  • The new business has finally born fruit.

9. See the light at the end of the tunnel

Just like a real, long tunnel, when you go inside you cannot see the end. However, as you get closer to the end, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s like saying that success is not that far away.

  • It took a while for us to get new clients but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel now.

10. The sky’s the limit

When we do well at something, others around us may comment, the sky’s the limit. It means we are so successful that there are almost no limitations to accomplishing whatever we want to do.

  • You paint so well, keep going, the sky’s the limit.

11. To have overnight success

When somethings happens overnight it happens very fast. In the same manner, you can also have overnight success. It means that you have achieved that success in the quickest amount of time possible. It does not have to be one night, but it is very fast compared to others. 

  • With her smash hit song, she achieved overnight success and became a star instantly. 

12. Failure teaches success

This is a very important idiom because it teaches us that sometimes you have to fail to succeed. When we say that failure teaches success it means that we learn from our mistakes. In many cases, you don’t succeed by immediately being right. When you fail you learn more, you come back stronger, and then you become successful. 

  • This project was not a complete failure. We need to pick ourselves back up and try again. We all know that failure teaches success. 

13. Every dog has its day

This is a commonly used idiom that reminds how every person can achieve success. Dogs don’t always have the best lives, but they get lucky and have a good day every once in a while. The same goes for people. Some people have streaks of bad luck, or just can’t seem to get ahead in life. At some point they will, and when we say that every dog has his day we mean that even people with bad luck will one day succeed.

  • I’ve seen Josh struggle for years to get ahead in the company. He’s been on a losing streak for almost a year. Now he got a huge client and is finally making progress. I guess every dog has it’s day.

14. To make a killing

This is an idiom commonly used in finance and banking. It’s directly linked to money. To make a killing means to earn a lot of money very quickly. Usually with one job or a big investment. It means that you have achieved monetary success as quickly as possible. 

  • This is one of the best investments we’ve ever made. We were in and out the door in a day, and we made a killing.

15. To catch the wave

The sea is either calm or wavy, and a lot of people like to surf on waves. This is an idiom that comes from sports, specifically surfing. When surfers catch a wave they use it for a very long ride. This can also translate to success. When you catch a wave it means that you are riding on success, and that it keeps going and going. 

  • We’ve recorded our first album and a couple of record label executives came to our show. Some of them even gave us offers. We’ve caught that wave now! 

16. Count your chickens before they hatch

We all know that chickens hatch from eggs. However, sometimes chickens don’t end up hatching from an egg because it’s sadly dead. When you count your chickens before they’re hatched it means that you are expecting a level of success that you might not get. This is an idiom that tells us to be careful when betting on success.

  • I told him time and time again. But no, he’s just counting his chickens before they’re hatched. Now we’re losing clients because his investment failed.

17. To kill two birds with one stone

This is one of the most famous idioms about success. It’s not literal, but the image is important. If you ever had to throw a stone at some birds, and that stone hits two instead of just one, that means it’s an even more successful throw than you expected. As an idiom it means to deal with two problems successfully, even though you only used one method to achieve it. 

  • If we put Harrison in with James we can kill two birds with one stone. Both of them want to work with Alice, and their cases are similar. We save time and money, and both of them end up happy.

18. A win-win situation

This is a common idiom we use when two parties can both achieve success in a situation. It describes a scenario where no party loses. It’s one of the absolute ways to achieve success. 

  • You guys take care of renovating the docks. The construction company handling the parking lot can take over the new office building, and we can finish the parking lot to transfer for the final workload back to the docks. It sounds complicated, but trust me it’s a win-win situation for all of us. 

19. Where there’s a will, there’s a way

Success doesn’t always come easy. It more often than not takes hard work and dedication. You need to find a way to succeed. When we say where there’s a will, there’s a way we mean that if you continue to try hard enough you will find that way. Even if success isn’t easy, just keep trying and you will make it. 

  • We can’t stop now. We might be losing but where there’s a will, there’s a way. We can still make it.

20. To strike gold

Sometimes success doesn’t come just from hard work and dedication. It can also happen by chance. In many cases luck is just as important as hard work. When we say that someone struck gold we mean that they have achieved a great amount of success thanks to luck.

  • This was a dead-end client who had no prospects. Melissa took him in and then she struck gold. They patented their product and now the stock is soaring. 

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While there are other idioms related to success, we have tried to select the most commonly heard and most frequently used. Do you know any different phrases about success? Let us know with a comment!

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