Tag Archives: colours
blue blood

blue blood

  The Third Estate carrying the Clergy and the Nobility on its back (late 18th-century French print) – Bibliothèque nationale de France A faut esperer q’eu.s jeu la finira bentot (= Il faut espérer que ce jeu-là finira bientôt, You should hope that this game will be over soon)       After the Reconquista, […]

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to blackball

to blackball

  Mary Delany (née Granville) – 1782 – by John Opie photograph: National Portrait Gallery         MEANINGS   – To reject a candidate applying to become a member of a club or other society by means of a secret ballot. – To exclude someone from society, a profession, etc.; to ostracise.   […]

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ballot

ballot

  Palazzo Ducale, Sala del Senato - Venice, Italy Brooklyn Museum Archives - Goodyear Archival Collection     Ballotta, a rounde bullet. Also a voice or lot. Ballottare, to choose, to cast or draw lots with bullets as they use in Venice. A Worlde of Wordes, Or Most copious, and exact Dictionarie in Italian and English (1598) by […]

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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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red tape

red tape

  bundle of US pension documents from 1906 bound in red tape photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Jarek Tuszynski       MEANING   Excessive bureaucracy or adherence to official rules and formalities.     ORIGIN   Woven red tape is used to tie up bundles of legal documents and official papers. A Dictionary of Law (eighth edition […]

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eagle

eagle

  photograph: Wikimedia Commons       The English eagle is from French aigle. The French noun is from the Latin feminine noun aquila, which is perhaps, in allusion to the bird’s common colour, from the adjective aquilus, feminine aquila, meaning dark-coloured, dun, swarthy. The Latin name denoted the bird and a military ensign surmounted […]

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éminence grise

éminence grise

  François Leclerc du Tremblay       The French term éminence grise, literally grey eminence, is used in English and French to designate a person who exercises power or influence in a certain sphere without holding an official position. It was originally applied to François Leclerc du Tremblay (1577-1638), known as Père Joseph. A […]

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butterfly

butterfly

  photograph: Steve Ogden - Wildlife Insight     This noun, which appeared around the year 1000 as buttorfleoge, is simply a compound of butter and fly, and not – as sometimes poetically suggested – an alteration of flutter by. The reason for this name is unknown. Dutch had botervlieg and German Butterfliege, which, like the […]

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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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bluestocking

bluestocking

  Benjamin Stillingfleet, by Johann Zoffany     MEANING   A bluestocking is an intellectual or literary woman.     ORIGIN   The term blue stocking originally alluded to blue stockings as worn by men, specifically cheap blue worsted stockings as opposed to more expensive and formal white silk stockings. Originally, blue stocking was particularly […]

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