In one’s element is an idiom that has been in use for hundreds of years. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the idiom in one’s element, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.
In one’s element is an idiom that means a place where someone is comfortable, either because of his talents, personality, or desires. The expression in one’s element came into use during the Elizabethan era, when nature was divided into four elements—earth, air, fire, and water; living and nonliving things were categorized as belonging to one of the elements.
“Chef Frank (Villa) couldn’t stop smiling — through his mask, of course — as he is in his element and for myself, seeing our regulars and the familiar faces has my heart full.” (Marin Independent Journal)
The president was in his element as he delivered remarks to an enthusiastic crowd of loyalist supporters. (The Daily Mail)
Although farming was in his blood, he was in his element when he had a mic in his hand, or was making sure there were no echoes from the speakers, or there were no squeals from the mics, and making sure that anyone using a mic could be heard and that everyone who needed to be heard was heard. (The Terry Tribune)