What are some Idioms about Working Hard?

There are many idioms about working hard in English and they can often be used in different contexts like being busy, doing hard physical work, or just simply working hard.

4 idioms that mean hard work

Here are some idioms that we use to show that we are working hard.

Be inundated 

To be inundated means to be very busy. An inundation literally means “to flood”. We exaggerate a little when we use this idiom to say that we are flooded with work tasks. 


Oh, I am sorry, I can’t come to the party. I am inundated at work.

Rory is inundated with work as usual.

Be snowed under

“To be snowed under” is similar to “to be inundated” as it has a weather metaphor. “To be snowed under” also has a meaning of being under pressure.


I am snowed under at work again. Sorry, I can’t make it to the show.

To burn the candle at both ends

“To burn the candle at both ends” means to do too much of something. The idea is that you are going to run out of energy because you are working too hard. It can also be used in the context of doing too much in your life in general.


You can’t stay out until 4 am and then go to work at 8 am. You are burning the candle at both ends. 

Blood, sweat, and tears

We use “blood, sweat, and tears” for projects that we work on over a longer period of time.


I put my blood, sweat, and tears into that start-up and today it is worth nothing.

I put my blood sweat and tears into that book. 

Expressions we use before/after we work hard or study

Knuckle down/Buckle down

We use “to knuckle down” or “to buckle down” when we are reading to stop procrastinating and start working hard. “To knuckle down” and “to buckle down” basically have the same meaning.


I am going to knuckle down just after I have this coffee.

When is he ever going to buckle down?

No pain, no gain

“No pain, no gain” is an expression we use when we have to work hard in order to have success. 


Oh, man! I have been working so hard on my business these past few months

No pain, no gain

Idioms to show that you are busy working hard

You can use the following idioms when you want to say that you are busy

To have your hands full 

I have my hands full with the Peterson report.

To have a lot on your plate

I am sorry, I will have to call you back. I have a lot on my plate at the moment. 

Idioms with the word “work” to show that you are working hard

Here are some idioms that you can use with the verb “to work”

Work like a dog 

This is a common expression in England to work very hard. You can think of The Beatles’ song “It’s been a hard days night, I’ve been working like a dog

Work like a horse

“Work like a horse” has a very similar meaning to “work like a dog” and basically means to work hard and intensely.

Work your tail/butt off

To work “your tail off” is a more American phrase and is generally used for longer projects. You can also use “to work your butt off” but that is more informal.  

To work day and night

To work “your day and night” is also generally used for longer projects. 

Idioms with the word “grind” to show that you are working hard

The word “grind” has a few different meanings but we also use it in the context of hard, boring work.

Back to the grind

“Back to the grind” is an expression people use when they take a break from work and have to go back and start working hard again.

Tomorrow is Monday so it is back to the grind for me!

Grinding it out

“Grinding it out” has more of a meaning that you just do what is necessary to get the result that you need. 

Oh, we are just grinding it out until the boss says we can go home. 

More idioms for hard work

Backbreaking work

“Backbreaking work” is a way to describe work that is physically demanding like building a road.

Soul destroying work

“Soul destroying work” is work that is extremely boring and has no meaning for you 

Idioms that show the opposite of working hard

We also have many idioms to use when people are not working very hard 

To phone it in 

“To phone it in” means to do your work without care. You basically just show up and do the bare minimum.

Dossing off

The verb “to doss” is a slang verb in British English that means to not work or laze about. 

Working hard or hardly working

“Working hard or hardly working” is something people say as a joke response when people say they are working hard.