English Language Blog

Top English “apple” idioms and phrases Posted by on May 27, 2014 in English Language

appleIn a post last week, I introduced you to the American legend of Johnny Appleseed. Today I want to piggyback* off that post and introduce you to some great expressions in English that have the word “apple” in them. Apples are not only healthy and delicious, but they are also a culturally important food in America.  There are many apple related traditions in America, such as children bringing an apple to their teacher as a way of saying ‘thank you,’ a game called “bobbing for apples” that is played in the fall, and apple pie, a very American dessert, that is cooked and served on many important holidays like Independence Day and Thanksgiving Day.

It is this cultural importance of apples in America that has likely led to many of these apple-related phrases and idioms becoming popular. Take a look at the expressions and idioms below and see if you can find a way to use one of these apple-related phrases sometime in the next week.

as American as apple pie – This means that something has qualities, or features, that are typical of the United States or the people of the United States.
Example: My brother drives a Ford truck and wears blue jeans every day; he is as American as apple pie.

an apple a day keeps the doctor away – Apples are considered a nutritious food; so this expression is intended as advice. To stay healthy (and to not have to visit the doctor) you should eat healthy food like, an apple, every day.
Example: Whenever I get sick my mother always reminds me to take care of myself by saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

the apple of my eye – This is a way of referring to a favorite, or beloved, person.
Example: My daughter is the apple of my eye; she makes me happy every day.

(like) comparing apples and oranges – This expression is used when someone is talking about two non-similar items, but trying to compare them as though they were similar.
Example: You can’t compare who works harder, me or you; I am a teacher and you are a fisherman, and that is like comparing apples and oranges.

one rotten apple spoils the whole barrel – This expression means that one bad person influences everyone around him or her and can make them act bad too.
Example: Jimmy is the rotten apple that spoils the barrel in my class, I wish I didn’t have to be his teacher all year.

How about them apples? or How do you like them apples?  This question is the same as ‘What do you think of that?’ Asking this question is usually a way of bragging or showing off.
Example: I was picked to join the basketball team and you weren’t. How do you like them apples?

Here is a famous clip from the movie Goodwill Hunting in which this expression is used.

*piggyback – to piggyback literally means, to ride on someone’s back and shoulders, but it is also used as an expression to mean: using an existing piece of work as the basis or support for the following piece of work

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About the Author: Gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.


  1. Shepherd Cohen:

    I appreciate your effort Gabriele ! Keep it up and keep shining

  2. feriel:

    thank you so much for posting this on your blog, it’s really helpful. I know another sentence, is it an idiom though ” the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”, thank you.

    • Gabriele:

      @feriel Feriel,
      Yes! That is a great expression/idiom with the word apple in it. It means “children are similar to their parents.” Here is an example of how to use it: James and his son are both crazy about fishing. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

  3. Dave:

    What is proper? “Bring me a apple pie” or “Bring me an apple pie”.

    • Gabriele:

      @Dave Certainly “an apple pie” is more grammatically correct than “a apple pie,” but I am sure you will hear both from native speakers.