Tag Archives: Shakespeare

blanket

    The noun blanket is from Old Northern French and Anglo-Norman forms such as blankete and blanket, composed of blanc, white, and the diminutive suffix -ette, and meaning white woollen material, blanket cloth, and blanket. (The Modern French word for blanket is couverture, meaning literally covering, from the verb couvrir, to cover. The term […]

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trumpery

    MEANINGS   – attractive articles of little value or use – practices or beliefs that are superficially or visually appealing but have little real value or worth     ORIGIN   The noun trumpery, which appeared in the mid-15th century, is from French tromperie, meaning deception, trickery. This was one of the original […]

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apple-john

    An apple-john is a kind of apple, called in French deux-années or deux-ans, because it will keep two years, and is considered to be in perfection when shrivelled and withered. The second element is after the name of St John, because the apple ripens around St John’s Day (24th June). In Huloets dictionarie […]

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Don’t spoil the ship for a ha’p’orth of tar.

    MEANING   Don’t risk the failure of a large project by trying to economise on trivial things.     ORIGIN   Ship is a dialectal pronunciation of sheep, and this proverb was originally to lose the sheep (often the hog) for a halfpennyworth of tar, that is to say, for want of spending […]

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to don – to doff

    MEANINGS   – to don: to put on (an item of clothing) – to doff: to remove (an item of clothing)     ORIGIN   The verb to don is a coalesced form of the obsolete phrasal verb to do on, meaning to put on (an item of clothing). For example, in the Coverdale […]

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willy-nilly

    MEANINGS   whether desired or not and haphazardly     ORIGIN   This adverb is a contraction of the idiomatic phrase based on end-rhyme will I, nill I (or will he, nill he, etc.), meaning be I willing, be I unwilling (or be he willing, be he unwilling, etc.). The obsolete verb to […]

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alligator

alligator

  Bobby Charles – See You Later, Alligator (1955) photograph: Rebound Records     MEANING   a large semiaquatic reptile similar to a crocodile but with a broader and shorter head, native to the Americas and China     ORIGIN   This noun is from Spanish el lagarto, el meaning the and lagarto lizard, from […]

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to unfriend

to unfriend

  photograph: Metro     The verb to unfriend was coined by the Church of England clergyman Thomas Fuller (1608-61) in The Appeal of Injured Innocence (1659). Writing to Peter Heylin (1599-1662), a churchman who had criticised The Church History of Britain from the birth of Jesus Christ until the year 1648, published in 1655, […]

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hackneyed – hack

      MEANINGS   – hackneyed, adjective: (of phrases, fashions, etc.) used so often as to be trite, dull and stereotyped – hack, noun: a writer or journalist producing dull, unoriginal work     ORIGIN   The noun hackney, which is first recorded in the late 13th century, originally denoted a horse of middle […]

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surly

    MEANING   bad-tempered and unfriendly     ORIGIN   This word was originally a variant of the obsolete and rare adjective sirly, composed of the noun sir and the suffix -ly, and meaning sir-like, lordly, hence haughty, imperious (it is similar to German herrisch, imperious, from Herr, lord, sir). The word sirly is first recorded, used […]

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