Tag Archives: dictionaries
eggcorn

eggcorn

  photograph: Launceston Parish Wildlife Project       MEANING   An eggcorn is a word or phrase that results from a mishearing or misinterpretation of another, an element of the original being substituted for one which sounds very similar, as in to tow the line instead of to toe the line.     ORIGIN […]

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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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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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serendipity

serendipity

  Joshua Reynolds’ portrait of Horace Walpole – circa 1756-7       MEANING   The noun serendipity denotes the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.     ORIGIN   The word was coined by the English writer and politician Horace Walpole (1717-97). In a letter to his […]

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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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teetotal

teetotal

  tombstone of Richard ‘Dicky’ Turner at Preston “Beneath this stone are deposited the remains of Richard Turner, author of the word teetotal as applied to abstinence from all intoxicating liquors, who departed this life on the 27th day of October 1846, aged 56 years.” photograph: Paul D. Swarbrick   The adjective teetotal in the sense of choosing, or characterised by, total […]

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