Tag Archives: Bible
marguerite

marguerite

  ox-eye daisy flower photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Tony Wills       Borrowed from French in the early 17th century, marguerite originally denoted the common daisy. It is now another term for the ox-eye daisy; also called moon daisy, this plant has large white flowers with yellow centres (scientific name: Leucanthemum vulgare, family Compositae).   The same […]

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nincompoop

nincompoop

  P. G. Wodehouse in 1904     Oh, Bertie, if ever I called you a brainless poop who ought to be given a scholarship at some good lunatic asylum, I take back the words. P. G. Wodehouse - Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (1954)     MEANING   A nincompoop is a stupid or foolish person. This noun […]

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in someone’s good books – blacklist

in someone’s good books – blacklist

  The Black Book of the Exchequer photograph: The National Archives/History of government         The earliest black books were record books or ledgers usually relating to finance or administration, and the adjective seems to have had no other significance than to indicate the colour of the binding. For example, in a letter […]

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to the bitter end

to the bitter end

  photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Luiz Carlos       MEANING   The expression to the bitter end is used to indicate that one will continue doing something until it is finished, no matter what.     IMPROBABLE ORIGIN   BITTER End [Sea Term] a Turn of a Cable about the Timbers called Bitts, when the Ship […]

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give a dog a bad name

give a dog a bad name

  John Ray (1627-1705) by unknown artist – after 1680 photograph: National Portrait Gallery     A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold. Old Testament, Proverbs, 22:1 (King James Version – 1611)     The catchphrase give a dog a bad name means […]

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‘noon’

‘noon’

  High Noon 1952 American Western film directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Gary Cooper       The noun noon, which appeared in Old English as non, is from the classical Latin nona, short for nona hora, ninth hour, a noun use of the feminine singular of nonus, ninth. The meanings of Latin nona […]

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ladybird

ladybird

  ladybird on strawberry leaf – photograph: nutmeg66       A coccinellid is a beetle of the family Coccinellidae. The genus name Coccinella is from Latin coccineus, scarlet (cochineal, a scarlet dye, has the same origin). This family includes the ladybirds (ladybugs in American English).The scientific name of the common European seven-spot ladybird is […]

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forty winks

forty winks

  William Kitchiner by William Brockedon (circa 1826) image: National Portrait Gallery     MEANING   The expression forty winks means a short sleep, especially during the day. Here, the noun wink means a closing of the eyes for sleep, a nap. This sense has survived in not to sleep (or get) a wink, or […]

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cretin

cretin

  photograph: Culture, Histoire et Patrimoine de Passy       The noun cretin was first used in English by the historian William Coxe (1748-1828). In An Account of the Vallais, and of the Goitres and Idiots of that Country, published in The Annual Register of 1779, he wrote: The species of idiots I have mentioned […]

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danger

danger

  Shylock and Portia (1835) by the American painter Thomas Sully (1783-1872)     Through Old French dangier, danger, the English noun danger is from an assumed Late Latin form dominiarium, derivative of dominium, property, right of ownership, hence lordship, sovereignty, rule, from dominus, lord, master. The a in the Old French forms is probably […]

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