I think most questions asking for an English equivalent of proverbs or sayings in other languages use 3 tags together - idiom-requests, phrase-requests and expression-requests.

An expression is defined by ODO as

A word or phrase, especially an idiomatic one, used to convey an idea.

"We have an expression, ‘You don’t get owt for nowt."

An idiom is defined by M-W as

An expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own.

What exactly is the expression-requests tag for?

There seems to be no description or tag wiki for it.

  • 1
    Hmm. Good question. Maybe we should merge some tags? I can easily see subsuming [expression-requests] under [phrase-requests]. And I'm personally not super clear on the distinction between a (set) phrase and an idiom. Does an idiom have to be metaphorical, or something?
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 16:27
  • 4
    @DanBron Idioms to me are defined by the whole not being the sum of its parts. 'the whole 9 yards' is an idiom, 'don't throw stones (when you live in a glass house)' is a proverb or saying, 'See ya later alligator!' is an expression.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 17:48
  • 1
    I've wondered about having multiple X-requests. The single-word-request tag has extensive documentation while many (all?) of the rest are only sparsely documented. Perhaps we should alias them all to single-word-request and rename SWR to something more generic. If I understand the tag system correctly, this allows people to type any of those aliases into the tag field, and the system would automatically change it to SWR (or whatever it's renamed to). We only need to maintain one set of documentation for the family of X-requests then.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 10:34
  • @Lawrence: It's been tried before, unsuccessfully: Can we merge single-word-requests and phrase-requests? It's difficult to get even uncontroversially duplicate tags merged, let alone controversial ones.
    – herisson
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 22:47
  • 2
    @Lawrence I wouldn't merge SWR to anything. It should stay as is.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 4:37
  • @sumelic After reading that, it looks like it's popular (+13 -3), but there are 2 good reasons not to: (1) meaning tends to get diluted; and (2) there isn't (yet) a compelling suggestion for the combined term.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 4:54
  • 3
    I would merge expression-requests into phrase-requests since the latter addresses colloquial phrases. Thus, they are indistinguishable from each other, so we should go with the more popular one. It's a clear distinction from idiom-requests.
    – Helmar
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 11:49
  • But wait, there's more: proverbs and proverb-requests, and aphorism and aphorism-requests, not to mention saying with no fewer than 216 questions tagged. At least we have no old-saws with which to lacerate essays.
    – choster
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 14:42
  • Would it be ok to update the phrase-requests tag info to: "This tag is for questions seeking a phrase or an expression that fits a meaning. If you're specifically seeking only a single word, see the "single word requests" tag too." ?
    – ermanen
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 11:08
  • There is still expressions tag also which appears to have an outdated information as the expression-requests tag was merged into phrase-requests tag.
    – ermanen
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 11:12
  • @ermanen it's okay I think. You may suggest the edit.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Jul 8, 2022 at 12:34
  • @NVZ I've updated the phrase-requests tag now to mention "expression". I believe expressions tag should be merged into phrases tag also, which was not done before. I believe "expressions" is never meant to include single words, even though some definitions include it. Although, "expression" is a bit of an ambiguous word as well.
    – ermanen
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 11:28
  • @ermanen Perhaps a different meta question would be necessary for that, since merging cannot be reversed later.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 19:26

3 Answers 3


I would merge into since the latter addresses colloquial phrases. Thus, they are indistinguishable from each other, so we should go with the more popular one. It's a clear distinction from .

As it stands in our current taxonomy we are using all the expression tags completely synonymous to phrases. Originally was intended for phrases in a grammatical sense, but the existing ~3,700 questions do not reflect that. When I updated the tag wiki I couldn't find a single good example that matched the description and I didn't change the intent of the description.

Therefore I would not only merge into , but all expression tags to their according phrase tags.

  • I don't see how requests for phrases which aren't fixed (your 'colloquial' phrases fits the recommendations of ELU. Such requests seem far too open-ended, too open to POB answers. Writing advice. Commented Apr 15, 2023 at 15:31

Yes, they should be merged (or made into synonyms or whatever the correct terminology is).


I am adding this answer because after seeing the question Is there an expression to describe a situation where someone could have helped you but they didn't? I came away with some confusion over the difference between and and questions in my mind whether they were the same--and found this meta question & answer, which addresses some of these same issues--but the suggestions to merge the two tags hasn't been addressed yet publicly from TPTA, the powers that are.

Because when I clicked on the it says

This tag is for questions about expressions. Expressions are words or phrases used to convey an idea, or else a particular term used conventionally to express something. Consider if you are looking for an expression, phrase-meaning if you are unsure about the usage of a given phrase....

but when I clicked on it says

This tag is for questions seeking a phrase that fits a meaning. If you're specifically seeking only a single word, see the "single word requests" tag too.

and I thought to myself "Isn't an expression the same thing as a phrase that fits a meaning," so I went to and found no definition of the tag, which was not helpful. So, to answer your question title, I don't know what it's for.

I looked at the number of questions under and and they both appeared substantial and the questions with these tags seem to be asking the same thing.

So my thought was to come here and ask what the difference was between the two tags (as well as point out that has no definition. But the software suggested this question here that I am responding to as a possible duplicate, so instead of asking a new question, I'm chiming in with the suggestion that the two tags be merged or somehow differentiated, and in the meanwhile point out that the one tag has no definition. But I don't know if TPTA intend to do anything.

  • minor note: "the powers that be" (sometimes initialized as TPTB)
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 18:46
  • @NVZ well, I know that. buy I eschew the subjunctive Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 18:57
  • @NVZ and Clare: Interestingly, according to the answer to Why “the powers that be”?, the expression "the powers that be" is not even an example of the subjunctive but an obsolete variant of the plural indicative
    – herisson
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 1:16

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