Tag Archives: dictionaries
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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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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a stiff upper lip

a stiff upper lip

  first edition cover of Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves (1963), by the English author P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) – image: Goldsboro Books     MEANING   a quality of uncomplaining stoicism     ORIGIN   The word lip occurs in phrases referring to certain actions regarded as indicative of particular states of feeling. For example, […]

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sedan

sedan

  image: Dictionnaire illustré latin-français (1934) – Félix Gaffiot     The Romans used forms of litters, called basterna and lectica, which were portable beds or sofas adapted for a reclining posture. They had however a third type of litter, named sella gestatoria, which was a portable chair adapted for a sitting posture. The feminine […]

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cold call

cold call

  photograph: Which? – Ten tips to stop cold calls     The noun cold call denotes an unsolicited visit or telephone call made by someone trying to sell goods or services. Here, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (1989), cold means without preparation, preliminary performance, etc. It was originally an American usage; the earliest quote in this dictionary is […]

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bridegroom

bridegroom

  Imogen discovered in the cave of Belarius by George Dawe (1781-1829)     MEANING   A bridegroom is a man on his wedding day or just before and after the event.     ORIGIN   The Old English noun brýdguma meant bridegroom. It was composed of brýd, bride, and guma, man. (The element guma […]

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‘quiz’

‘quiz’

  Frances Burney (circa 1784-85) by Edward Francisco Burney National Portrait Gallery       MEANING   The noun quiz has the general sense of a set of questions used to test knowledge or to promote learning. In American English, a quiz is a short oral or written examination given by a teacher. In British […]

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cricket

cricket

  The evolution of the cricket bat (The first cricket bat looked like a hockey stick) source: World Cricket Watch     The French ‘jeu de la crosse’ – 18th century The English game of cricket – 18th century       ♦ The name of the insect related to the grasshoppers dates back to the […]

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clue – clew

    The noun clue appeared as a variant spelling of clew, of same pronunciation. Not frequent until the 17th century, clue has become the prevailing form of the word in the sense of a fact or idea that serves to reveal something or solve a problem. The word is from Old English cliwen, cleowen, meaning a ball formed by winding yarn, twine or thread (it […]

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cap-a-pie

    The adverb cap-a-pie (pie pronounced as the word pea) means (dressed, armed) from head to foot. It appeared as a military term in the 16th century. It is first recorded in the 1523-25 translation of the French work Les Chroniques de Jean Froissart (circa 1337-1400), by Sir John Bourchier Lord Berners: They helde themselfe styll in […]

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