Tag Archives: Bible
jeopardy

jeopardy

  Jeopardy. This word is supposed to be derived from ‘j’ai perdu’, or ‘jeu perdu’. Skinner and Junius. Hazard; danger; Peril. A word not now in use. A Dictionary of the English Language (1785 edition), by Samuel Johnson (1709-84) There are two errors: the noun jeopardy is not from French j’ai perdu (I have lost) or jeu perdu […]

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on the horns of a dilemma

on the horns of a dilemma

  St Jerome in his study (1480), by Domenico Ghirlandaio         MEANING   faced with a decision involving equally unfavourable alternatives (also read Morton’s fork)     ORIGIN   In logic, the term dilemma denotes a form of argument forcing an opponent to choose either of two equally unfavourable alternatives. The Latin […]

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canopy

canopy

  Judith Beheading Holofernes (1598-99) by Caravaggio (1571-1610)       PRIMARY MEANING   an ornamental cloth covering hung or held up over something, especially a throne or bed     ORIGIN   Via French canapé and Medieval Latin canopeum, English canopy is from classical Latin conopeum, conopium, denoting a net of fine gauze, used […]

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walk of life

walk of life

  The whole Psalter translated into English metre (1567?) photograph: Bodleian Library & Radcliffe Camera       The expression walk of life denotes a person’s occupation or position within society. It seems to have appeared in the early 18th century. In A Dialogue in the Elizium Fields between Lælius and Timon, of Friendship (published in […]

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‘onyx’

‘onyx’

  photograph: Health This Year      MEANING   a semi-precious variety of agate with different colours in layers     ORIGIN   Via Anglo-Norman and Old French forms such as onix and onice (Modern French onyx), the English word is from Latin onyx/onych-. This Latin noun is from Greek ὄνυξ/ὀνυχ- (onux/onukh-), which literally meant […]

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facilis descensus Averno

facilis descensus Averno

  Aeneas and the Sibyl, Lake Avernus (circa 1798), by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) – image: Tate       MEANING   It is easy to slip into evil or immoral ways.     ORIGIN   Lake Avernus (in Italian Lago Averno) is a crater lake in Campania, southern Italy, near Cumae and Puteoli, […]

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the road to hell is paved with good intentions

the road to hell is paved with good intentions

  Hugh Stowell Brown       MEANING   Promises and plans must be put into action, otherwise they are useless.     ORIGIN   Versions of this proverb exist in several European languages; for example, the French one is l’enfer est pavé de bonnes intentions. St Francis de Sales (1567-1622) attributed the maxim to […]

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infantry

infantry

  La infanta doña Margarita de Austria (Infanta Margarita Teresa in a Pink Dress (circa 1665) by Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo (circa 1612-67)       The noun infantry is, via French infanterie, from Italian infanteria, foot-soldiery. This Italian noun is from infante, a youth, a servant, a foot-soldier. The sense development of Italian infante […]

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to eat someone’s salt

to eat someone’s salt

  Fluellen intimidating Pistol (circa 1850), by Joseph Noel Paton (1821-1901)       Salt has strong symbolic connotations. The phrase the salt of the earth, which now denotes a person or group of people regarded as the finest of their kind, comes the gospel of Matthew, 5:13, where Jesus described his disciples and meant […]

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holy-stone

holy-stone

  In nautical slang, a holy-stone was a piece of sandstone used by sailors for scouring the decks of ships. The terms bible and prayer-book were also used, as Admiral William Henry Smyth indicated in The Sailor’s Word-Book: an alphabetical digest of nautical terms (1867): – Bible. A hand-axe. Also, a squared piece of freestone to […]

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