Tag Archives: Christianity
urbi et orbi

urbi et orbi

  Pope Francis delivering the traditional Urbi et Orbi Easter message on 1st April 2013 photograph: The Times     Qualifying a solemn papal blessing, proclamation, etc., the post-classical Latin adverb urbi et orbi means to the city (of Rome) and to the world. It is from classical Latin urbī, dative of urbs, city, and […]

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Shrove Tuesday – le Mardi gras

Shrove Tuesday – le Mardi gras

  le carnaval de la mi-carême, Nantes (France) – photograph: MaxPPP/France-Soir         Shrovetide is the period comprising Quinquagesima Sunday, or Shrove Sunday, and the two following days, Shrove Monday and Shrove Tuesday. It immediately precedes Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. (Quinquagesima is short for ecclesiastical Latin quinquagesima dies, fiftieth day, because, […]

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galaxy

galaxy

  the Milky Way – photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Steve Jurvetson       The noun galaxy appeared in Middle English in the sense of the Milky Way, the diffuse band of light stretching across the night sky that consists of millions of faint stars, nebulae, etc., within our Galaxy. The first known user of this word […]

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the devil to pay

the devil to pay

  portrait, said to be of Stella (Esther Johnson) image: Crawford Art Gallery – Cork, Éire         MEANING   serious trouble to be dealt with     ORIGIN   This expression refers to a person making a pact or bargain with the Devil: the heavy price has to be paid in the […]

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pilgrim

pilgrim

  Canterbury Cathedral     The Latin adjective pereger/-gris, composed of per, through, and ager/agri, a field, a land, literally meant who has gone through lands, hence who is on a journey, away from home. From this adjective was derived the adverb peregri, peregre, meaning abroad, and to, or from, foreign parts. This in turn […]

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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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‘Noel’

      MEANINGS   – Noel, or Noël: Christmas, especially on Christmas cards and as a refrain in carols – noel, or noël: a Christmas carol     ORIGIN   This noun is from Anglo-Norman and Middle French forms such as Noël, Noel (modern French Noël), variants of forms such as Naël, Nael, first attested […]

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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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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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cabal

cabal

  Charles II (circa 1653) by Philippe de Champaigne       MEANINGS a secret or exclusive set of people a small group of intriguers, especially one formed for political purposes a secret plot, especially a political one     ORIGIN   The English word Kabbala, also spelt Kabbala, Cabbala, Cabala, or Qabalah, which dates […]

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