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island – aisle

    The noun island is from Old English íegland, ígland, a pleonastic compound of íeg, íg, meaning isle, and land. The literal meaning of íeg is watered place. This word is related to Old English éa, water, river, and a compound frequent in Old English was éaland, literally water-land, river-land. Old English éa is related […]

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‘ado’

    MEANINGS   – ado: a state of agitation or fuss – without further, or more, ado: without further fuss or delay – much ado about nothing: a great deal of fuss or trouble over nothing of any significance     ORIGIN   The noun ado is from northern Middle English at do, of Scandinavian […]

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this mortal coil

    MEANING   the troubles and activities of this mortal life     ORIGIN   In A Dictionary of the English Language (1755), the English lexicographer Samuel Johnson (1709-84) thus defined the noun coil: Tumult; turmoil; bustle; stir; hurry; confusion. This obsolete noun is probably from Old French acueil (Modern French accueil), meaning reception, encounter. […]

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to lick someone/something into shape

    MEANING   to act forcefully to bring someone or something into a fitter, more efficient, or better-organised state     ORIGIN   It was believed that bear cubs were born formless and had to be licked into shape by their mother. In his encyclopaedia of the natural and human worlds, Naturalis Historia (The […]

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porridge

    MEANING   a dish consisting of oatmeal or another meal or cereal boiled in water or milk     ORIGIN   The noun porridge is an alteration of pottage and had originally the same meaning: a thick soup made by stewing vegetables, herbs or meat, often thickened with barley, pulses, etc. The change […]

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maudlin

maudlin

   Mary Magdalene kneeling within a Stabat Mater scene Kreuzigung (Crucifixion – 1868), by Gabriel Wüger (1829-92)       MEANING   foolishly tearful or sentimental     ORIGIN   In the Christian Church, the Magdalene designates Mary Magdalene, a follower of Jesus, who cured her of evil spirits. She witnessed the Crucifixion and Jesus […]

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rhyparographer

    MEANING   a person who paints or writes about distasteful or sordid subjects     ORIGIN   The noun rhyparographer, or rhyparograph, is from Latin rhyparographos, meaning painter of low or sordid subjects. This Latin noun is from ancient Greek ῥυπαρός (= rhyparos), meaning dirty, filthy, and -γραϕος (= -graphos), one who writes, portrays […]

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madeleine

madeleine

  photograph: allrecipes.com     In French cookery, the feminine noun madeleine denotes a small rich cake baked in a fluted tin, which gives it a shell-like shape. It is first recorded in the plural as Magdeleines, in a list of petits fours published in Almanach des gourmands (1807). It was originally gâteau à la […]

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martinet

    MEANING   a person who maintains strict discipline, especially in a military force     ORIGIN   This noun is from the name of Jean Martinet (died 1672), whose biography is as follows in A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East (2010), edited by Spencer C. […]

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to busk

    MEANING   to perform music or some other entertainment in the street or other public place for voluntary donations     ORIGIN   To busk is from the obsolete French verb busquer, thus defined by Randle Cotgrave in A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues (1611): Busquer. To shift, filtch; prowle, catch […]

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