Tag Archives: Wycliffe
as cold as charity

as cold as charity

    The phrase (as) cold as charity refers to the perfunctory, unfeeling manner in which acts of charity are often done, and public charities administered. It originally alluded to the gospel of Matthew, 24:12, which is as follows in the Early Version (around 1382) of the Wycliffe Bible (wexe is the verb wax and means become, […]

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black sheep

black sheep

  photograph: Hill Farm, Abermule     MEANING   a member of a family or group who is regarded as a disgrace to it     ORIGIN   This was perhaps originally an allusion to the book of Genesis, 30. Jacob has already worked fourteen years for both of Laban’s daughters, and after Joseph’s birth […]

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a pig in a poke

    In this expression, the noun poke denotes a bag, a small sack. It is from Anglo-Norman and Old Northern French forms such as poke and pouque, variants of the Old French forms poche and pouche — the last of which is the origin of English pouch. (Incidentally, English pocket is from Anglo-Norman poket, […]

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hapax legomenon

    MEANING   a word or word form which is recorded only once in a text, in the work of a particular author, or in a body of literature     ORIGIN   This term is from Hellenistic Greek ἅπαξ λεγόμενον (= hapax legomenon), meaning something that has been said once, composed of ancient […]

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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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canopy

canopy

  Judith Beheading Holofernes (1598-99) by Caravaggio (1571-1610)       PRIMARY MEANING   an ornamental cloth covering hung or held up over something, especially a throne or bed     ORIGIN   Via French canapé and Medieval Latin canopeum, English canopy is from classical Latin conopeum, conopium, denoting a net of fine gauze, used […]

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walk of life

walk of life

  The whole Psalter translated into English metre (1567?) photograph: Bodleian Library & Radcliffe Camera       The expression walk of life denotes a person’s occupation or position within society. It seems to have appeared in the early 18th century. In A Dialogue in the Elizium Fields between Lælius and Timon, of Friendship (published in […]

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‘onyx’

‘onyx’

  photograph: Health This Year      MEANING   a semi-precious variety of agate with different colours in layers     ORIGIN   Via Anglo-Norman and Old French forms such as onix and onice (Modern French onyx), the English word is from Latin onyx/onych-. This Latin noun is from Greek ὄνυξ/ὀνυχ- (onux/onukh-), which literally meant […]

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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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to eat someone’s salt

to eat someone’s salt

  Fluellen intimidating Pistol (circa 1850), by Joseph Noel Paton (1821-1901)       Salt has strong symbolic connotations. The phrase the salt of the earth, which now denotes a person or group of people regarded as the finest of their kind, comes the gospel of Matthew, 5:13, where Jesus described his disciples and meant […]

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