32 History Idioms with explanations

History Idioms are idioms that make reference to the past either in their meaning or in the language used.


What is an Idiom?

An idiom is a group of words or a phrase that has a different meaning to its literal meaning. For example ‘It’s raining cats and dogs’ means it is raining very hard, it does not mean cats and dogs are falling from the sky. There are a number of history idioms that may be about the past or may refer to the past.


History idioms and their meanings in alphabetical order

History Idioms a blast from the past

A blast from the past Something you remember from the past that you see, hear or experience again
Bygone age Belonging to a previous time
Cradle of Civilisation A location where a civilisation began – Egypt, Mesopotamia, Indus Valley, China, Mexico and Peru.
Dim and distant past A time from the past not very well remembered
Donkey’s years A long time 
Dustbin of history People or events that will be forgotten by history
From time immemorial For a very long time, further back than you can remember
Go down in history To do something or be important enough to be recorded
Good old days A time from the past when life seemed better
Happy is the country that has no history If a country has no history it must be happy because it has not experienced conflict or struggle
History in the making Today’s event is so important it will be remembered
History repeats itself Something that happened before is happening again
I’m history I’m leaving
Long time no see Meeting someone you haven’t seen for a long time
Make history To do something very memorable that will will be remembered
Many moons ago A long time ago
On the wrong side of history When someone’s actions will be criticised by history
Once upon a time A long time ago
Past caring No longer interested in or concerned about something
Past its sell by date No longer useful or relevant
Put the clock back To start over again or restore things to how they were before
Rewrite history To change the facts of an event
Seen better days Something that is old and past its best
Stand the test of time Something that lasts for a long time
Take a trip down memory lane Reminiscing and remembering things from your past
That rings a bell When something triggers a distant memory but you can’t remember it clearly
That ship has sailed When an opportunity has been missed
That’s ancient history It’s no longer relevant
The rest is history The end of the story is common knowledge
The year dot A very long time ago
Turn back the hands of time Go back to a previous time (possibly to wish to change things for the better)
Water under the bridge When something that happened has been forgotten or forgiven
Winds of change Things that have the power to change history


Citation Information:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2020 – 2022). History Idioms. Available: https://www.historykeyskills.com/history-idioms/. Last accessed May 3rd, 2024