English Idioms with Battle

From the Battle of Hastings to the battle over the Oxford comma or how many vowels there are, the English language has had its fair share of fighting. We also have lots of different idioms featuring the word battle! Take a look at some below!

A Losing Battle

Our first idiom is fighting a losing battle which means trying to do something that will eventually fail. According to Dictionary.com,  this expression actually refers to "unsuccessful battles or games, and has been used figuratively since the early 1600s."


I have tried and tried to lose weight but with my health problems, it seems like I'm fighting a losing battle.

When her basement flooded, Beth tried to scoop the water out with buckets but it was coming in so quickly that she was fighting a losing battle.

You'd be fighting a losing battle if you try to run against the mayor in the next election. Everyone loves him so much already, there's no way you would win.

Uphill Battle

Unlike fighting a losing battle (above), fighting an uphill battle is difficult, but not impossible! An uphill battle is a task that is challenging from the very beginning, and continues to be hard the entire time.

This idiom is a very visual one.  You can imagine the feeling that you get when you are walking up a very steep hill. It's incredibly difficult the entire way up, but there is an end in sight, and you know you can do it!

Notice sometimes we also say uphill struggle or uphill fight.


My favorite soccer team has many injured players this season. It'll be an uphill battle for them to win the championships!

Math has always been an uphill struggle for Lesley because it's her hardest subject. However, with the help of a math tutor, and a lot of studying, she managed to get an A!

In the 1950's, America ran an anti-litter campaign to get Americans to stop throwing their trash on the ground. It was an uphill battle, but now, 70 years later, you will rarely see trash on the ground. You could say it was a success!

Choose your Battles

This one is more than just an idiom, some might say it's a way of life! If you choose your battles or pick your battles wisely, it means that you are purposely deciding which fights to have, and which ones are not worth your time.

We normally say this when we think a certain "battle" is not worth fighting. 

Sandy: It drives me crazy when Paul emails me from right across the hall.
Claire: I don't know, you just talked to him about typing too loud. You've got to pick your battles.

Parents learn how to choose their battles wisely when raising young children. For example, if you have to choose between making your child clean up their mess or eat a healthy dinner, sometimes you might just settle for the healthy meal.

It annoyed me when my girlfriend didn't help clean up after I made dinner, but I decided to choose my battles wisely!

A Running Battle

A running battle is another good one! A prolonged fight or debate between two or more people that may never be resolved can be called a running battle. 

The word “running” in this situation means ongoing, or open. For example, sometimes a restaurant may allow their customers to keep a running bill, meaning they can order as much food as they want and pay later.


My brother and I have a running battle about who is better. He might be taller, but I’m sure that I’m smarter!

The police are fighting a running battle against crime.

The two neighbors have had a running battle for the past five years over whose responsibility it is to cut the grass between their houses.

Half the Battle

The last one for today is half the battle. We use this expression to say that one component is a major part of achieving something bigger, so that by achieving that one component, you have already finished the most difficult part. In this expression, the battle refers to the end achievement or goal!

A common version on this expression is knowing is half the battle, which is similar to saying "knowledge is power." This means that once you are aware of something you can then act on it!


Showing up to school is half the battle! Now if I can just stay awake for class...

Julie had no idea that her son had been falling asleep in class. Knowing is half the battle, so now she can make sure he gets to bed early!

Learning how to walk around a new city is just half the battle. Once you learn the train system, you'll be a pro!

Winning my new dog's trust is half the battle. After that, I can finally start teaching him tricks!

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