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According to Wikipedia, "An idiom is generally a colloquial metaphor — a term which requires some foundational knowledge, information, or experience, to use only within a culture where parties must have common reference."
What this means is that normally idioms start out as metaphors that would be understood by people in a given culture, but over time the original metaphor may become harder and harder to understand, even though the expression remains in the language as a fixed expression.
For example, it is hard for modern native English speakers to guess at the original source of the idiom "Kick the bucket" even though we all still know it is an expression for "to die".
|Includes CC-BY-SA content from Wikipedia's Idiom article (authors)|