A-Z Database

A-Z Database

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D’Oyly Carte

D’Oyle Carte is the surname of Richard D’Oyle Carte who founded the D’Oyly Carte theatre company that made Gilbert & Sullivan operettas famous. Irreve...

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Dab hand

A dab hand is an expert and the expression has been known and used in this sense since the 17th century. Although the date of origin is well attested,...

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Daft as a brush

This rather quaint British expression describing someone as mad or silly has a gentle, almost affectionate connotation. Its origin is obscure. Brewer’...

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Daggers/daggers drawn

To be at daggers drawn is to be in a state of open hostility. Daggers or knives were routinely carried as protection from very early times. Therefore,...

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Daisy roots

Rhyming slang for boots, daisy roots/boots, dates from the mid-19th century and is still in use.


In the late 18th century, a daisy-cutter was a horse that trotted with steps close to the turf in the sense that its hooves were cutting daisies. Abou...

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Damn with faint praise

According to the OED, this expression means to praise so half-heartedly or disingenuously as to imply condemnation. The exact phrase is generally attr...

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Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

Compromised, no matter what one does, this was Lorenzo Dow’s definition of Calvinism in Reflections on the Love of God published in 1836.

Damp squib

A damp squib is a disappointing outcome, a mediocre or failed enterprise, an anti-climax. A squib, which the OED maintains is an imitative word, is a...

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see Put a damper on

Dance attendance on

To dance attendance is a metaphor that means to wait on someone in an ingratiating or assiduous manner. It is not known who coined the metaphor but it...

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see Get one’s dander up


see Fine and dandy

Daniel in the lion’s den

This expression is used to describe a person facing an intimidating task or trial and the source is obviously the story of Daniel in the Bible, Daniel...

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The word itself dates from the early 1400s when it originally meant heavy, strong, powerful or stout from the Middle Lower German or Middle Dutch dapp...

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