Tag Archives: Bible
giddy

giddy

  John Ray (1627-1705) – image: National Portrait Gallery       MEANINGS   dizzy; affected with a reeling sensation and feeling as if about to fall causing or tending to cause vertigo impulsive; scatter-brained     ORIGIN   This adjective is from Old English gidig, insane, mad, from the Germanic base of god. Its […]

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jeremiad

jeremiad

  Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem (circa 1630), by Rembrandt (1606-69)       Jeremiah (circa 650-585 BC) was a Hebrew prophet who foresaw the fall of Assyria, the conquest of his country by Egypt and Babylon, and the destruction of Jerusalem. He is traditionally regarded as the author or part-author of two Old […]

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the writing on the wall

the writing on the wall

  Belshazzar’s Feast (1635), by Rembrandt (1606-69)     “He says that Civilization is in the melting-pot and that all thinking men can read the writing on the wall.” “What wall?” “Old Testament, ass. Belshazzar’s feast.” “Oh, that, yes. I’ve often wondered how that gag was worked. With mirrors, I expect.” P. G. Wodehouse – […]

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fleshpots

fleshpots

  Jonathan Swift by or after Charles Jervas (1709-10) image: National Portrait Gallery         MEANING   places providing luxurious or hedonistic living     ORIGIN   Literally, a fleshpot is a pot in which flesh, i.e. meat, is boiled to eat. The source is biblical. In the Book of Exodus, 16:3, when […]

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restaurant

restaurant

   La Mère Catherine – Maison fondée en 1793       When Randle Cotgrave published A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues in 1611, the French noun restaurant still had its original meaning: Cotgrave translated it as a restorative. It is a noun use of the present participle of the verb restaurer, thus […]

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dog in the manger

dog in the manger

  The Dog in the Manger, from The Fables of Æsop selected, told anew and their history traced (1894), by Joseph Jacobs – illustrated by Richard Heighway       MEANING   A person who prevents others from having or using things even though he or she does not need them     ORIGIN   […]

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touchstone

touchstone

  goldsmith’s touchstone carved with initials HB and the date 1642 photograph: Finch & Cº – Antiques & Works of Art     Touche stone to prove golde with John Palsgrave – Lesclarcissement de la langue francoyse (1530)       MEANING   A touchstone is a standard or criterion by which something is judged […]

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fig leaf

fig leaf

  portion from Adam and Eve (1538), by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553)       MEANING   A thing intended to conceal a difficulty or embarrassment     ORIGIN   It is an allusion to the Book of Genesis, 3:7. The serpent has just convinced Eve to eat the forbidden fruit: 6 When the […]

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‘bird’

‘bird’

  Samuel Johnson, circa 1772, by Joshua Reynolds       The noun bird is from the masculine Old English brid (plural briddas), in Northumbrian, bird (plural birdas). There is no corresponding form in any other Germanic language, and the etymology is unknown. A connection with the nouns brood and breed is doubtful. The usual […]

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idiot

idiot

  Geoffrey Chaucer (circa 1342-1400) as a pilgrim – from the Ellesmere Manuscript, an early 15th-century illuminated manuscript of the Canterbury Tales       MEANING   A stupid person     ORIGIN   Via Old French, the English noun idiot is from Latin idiota, meaning uneducated, ignorant, inexperienced, common person. This Latin noun was […]

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