Learn English Idioms for Sickness

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  • Post last modified:21/09/2023
  • Post category:English Idioms
  • Reading time:10 mins read

Here you will learn some of the English idioms for Sickness and also expressions and phrases connected with illness.

Scroll down to watch Under the Weather idiom meaning.

List of Idioms for Sickness

English Idioms for Sickness

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Difference between Health and Healthy

Many of my English learning students confuse the use of 2 words – Health (noun) and Healthy (adjective). 

My healthy is good.

✔️ My health is good.

I’m very health.

✔️ I’m very healthy.

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This  also got me thinking about the ways of describing how you feel in English when you are unhealthy or not well. 

Bad health usually suggests to me a more long term condition that may last several months or years. (He suffered from bad health for a few years before he died). We are going to focus on the more short term English words and phrases.

Some of these words and expressions will be more formal and others informal. Some are very specific to the feeling and others are more general in their meaning.

English Idioms for Sickness + Sickness Vocabulary

I feel a little off colour today.

This usually means you are not quite sure what you have (what your illness is) but you do not feel yourself (feel generally unwell).

I think I must be coming down with something  (the beginning of a cold or flu) or I am a little under the weather today. When I hear the expression “sorry I must be coming down with something” I often think it is an excuse to cancel an arrangement, to avoid going to school or to get out of something you just simply do not want to do.

There are many phrases and expressions in English that are much more specific about the symptoms and the way you are feeling. 

I have a cold or I am getting the flu are very specific. 

Note that in English we use “A cold” but “ THE flu”. So different use of the articles.

Describing how you feel in English can be difficult because only you know really what you feel like at that time:

I feel unwell, I am ill, I feel bad, I don’t feel well – are all well used phrases.

Sickness Vocabulary - How to Describe Symptoms

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When you have a cold, the flu or a virus you more often give the following symptoms:

  • I have aches and pains
  • My throat is sore
  • I have a stuffy nose
  • My nose is blocked
  • I have a headache
  • I have a high temperature
  • I feel hot
  • I have a fever

Often the cause of the illness is due to something you ate or drank. In these situations we often feel like we want “to get or to be sick”.

  • I want to vomit.   
  • I feel like throwing up or puking (more slang and informal)

This can be covered generally by using the phrases:

  • I picked up a bug
  • I caught a bug
  • It’s just one of those 24 hour bugs

If we are ill and cannot go to work, school or university we usually have to take a sick day (for work) or inform the school or university that you cannot attend that day.

Some people are not really sick but feel like they need an extra days rest so they “pretend” (tell a little white lie) they are sick and we refer to this in English as pulling a sickie.

Other English Idioms about Sickness

as sick as a dog 

Meaning: to be very sick


Jimmy felt as sick as a dog after he ate 13 burgers.

to be at death’s door 

Meaning: to be really really unwell


Sarah’s grandad really looks like he is at death’s door – can barely walk and talk.

to feel out of sorts

Meaning: to feel a little bit ill


I felt out of sorts for most of the day and had a knot in my stomach.

to feel (a little) off-colour

Meaning: you don’t feel yourself but you’re not quite sure what you have


Adam is feeling a bit off-colour today, I think he should go to the doctor.

to feel like death warmed up

Meaning: to feel absolutely awful


Throughout her pregnancy, she felt like death warmed up.

Other English idioms for sickness that we use can also have a theoretical meaning such as:

as sick as a parrot

Meaning: usually means to be very annoyed or angry


Michael had wanted to buy a Harley Davidson bike but really could not afford it. He was as sick as a parrot when his friend told him that he had just purchased one!

I am sick to death of…

Meaning: I am really tired of something


The mother was constantly telling the children to stop shouting and fighting. She had had enough. She screamed out “I am sick to death of your shouting and fighting you have to stop now!!”

So enjoy your day, stay healthy but learn English idioms for Sickness and other words to describe your symptoms (just in case!).

One of the most common English idioms about sickness is

to feel under the weather

It doesn’t really make any sense to a non-native English speaker, does it? How can you feel under the weather?

You can be under the table, under your duvet but under the weather? 

Here is a short video lesson about this common English idiom, watch it and find out Feel Under The Weather meaning.

Under the Weather Idiom Meaning

under the weather idiom - video lesson

If you follow this link, you will be able to find out UNDER THE WEATHER meaning origin.

More Information

For more information in English Expressions, English Phrasal Verbs and English Grammar Rules, check ou the following links:

English Expressions about TIME

Phrasal Verbs with OVER

Difference between WILL and BE GOING TO

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As Sick As a Parrot Meaning