Tag Archives: law

to eavesdrop

    MEANING   to listen secretly to a conversation     ORIGIN   The obsolete noun eavesdrop denoted the dripping of water from the eaves of a building and the space of ground which is liable to receive the rain-water thrown off by the eaves of a building. This noun, which dates back to […]

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Morton’s fork

    MEANING   a practical dilemma, especially one in which both choices are equally undesirable     ORIGIN   John Morton (circa 1420-1500), Archbishop of Canterbury, cardinal and Lord Chancellor to King Henry VII, is traditionally believed to have developed a method of levying forced loans by arguing that those who were obviously rich […]

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to burke

to burke

      MEANING   – to murder in such a way as to leave no marks on the body, usually by suffocation – figuratively: to get rid of, silence, or suppress     ORIGIN   While some chose the profession of body-snatching, for others it was a more accidental career. William Burke and William […]

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plagiary

      MEANING   (archaic) a person who plagiarises or a piece of plagiarism     ORIGIN   This word is from the Latin noun plagiarius, meaning a person who abducts the slaves of another and/or who buys or sells a free person as a slave. The Roman epigrammatist Martial (Marcus Valerius Martialis – […]

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loveday

loveday

  from Confessio amantis (The Lover’s Confession – around 1393), by John Gower (died 1408) – image: Luminarium: Anthology of English literature       A loveday is a day devoted to love. In Greenes mourning garment giuen him by repentance at the funerals of loue, which he presentes for a fauour to all young […]

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bankrupt

bankrupt

  Siena: Allegory of Bad Government (1338-39), by Ambrogio Lorenzetti (circa 1290-1348)       The noun bankrupt is from Italian bancarotta, attested since the 15th century, and its French adaptation banqueroute, first recorded in 1466. The English word is first attested in the plural form bancke rouptes in The Apology of Sir Thomas More, Knight […]

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infantry

infantry

  La infanta doña Margarita de Austria (Infanta Margarita Teresa in a Pink Dress (circa 1665) by Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo (circa 1612-67)       The noun infantry is, via French infanterie, from Italian infanteria, foot-soldiery. This Italian noun is from infante, a youth, a servant, a foot-soldier. The sense development of Italian infante […]

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mayhem

  The word maim appeared in the early 14th century. As a verb, it originally meant to cause bodily hurt or disfigurement to, and subsequently to mutilate, to cripple. As a noun, it meant a lasting bodily injury, and subsequently a mutilating wound. The noun maim is from Anglo-Norman and Old French forms such as […]

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to tot

to tot

  To tot was a legal term meaning to mark an item in the sheriff’s list with the word tot or the letter T, showing that the amount had been levied, and was to be accounted for, by him. This verb is first recorded in 1368 in a public statute written in French: Par la […]

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clink

clink

  Winchester House (from a view by Hollar, 1660)         MEANING   prison     ORIGIN   The Clink was the name of a prison in Southwark, London. A Svrvay of London. Conteyning the Originall, Antiquity, Increase, Moderne estate, and description of that City, written in the yeare 1598, by Iohn Stow […]

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