A-Z Database

A-Z Database

All A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
U and non-U

U means socially acceptable or correct and non-U means the opposite. They stand for ‘upper class’ and ‘non upper class’ respectively. These expression...

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Ugly customer

Referring to a difficult or dangerous person is American, from the mid-19th century. See also Cool customer.

Um and ah

Both ‘um and ah’, which is more British, and ‘hem and haw’, which is more American, are expressions of hesitancy when dithering to find the right word...

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Uncle Tom Cobley and all

Uncle Tom Cobley and all is a quaint British expression signifying a seemingly interminable crowd of people and dates in this sense from the late 19th...

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Under one's own steam

Of one's own accord, without assistance. From the obvious allusion to steam-powered engines that seem to continue working of their own accord once...

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Under one’s belt

To get something under one’s belt means that something has been safely or satisfactorily achieved, experienced, or acquired and dates in this sense fr...

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Under one’s hat

To keep something under one’s hat is to keep something secret or confidential, away from public scrutiny, and dates in this sense from the late 19th c...

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Under one’s nose

Under one’s nose means in plain sight but often with the implication that one cannot actually see it until prompted. It dates in this sense from the m...

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Under the aegis of

Under the auspices, control, jurisdiction or sponsorship of, dates from the 1700s. The allusion is to the shield of Zeus, which was called the Aegis,...

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Under the belt

see Under one’s belt and also Below the belt

Under the cosh

A cosh is a short, weighted stick or truncheon, commonly carried by street ruffians, and dates from 1869, according to the OED. The origin is unknown,...

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Under the gun

Under pressure to perform, presumably as if someone was holding a gun to one’s head, is of American origin and is first attested from c. 1926.

Under the hammer

To be under the hammer means that something is up for sale at public auction where, traditionally a hammer is struck to signify the end of bidding. As...

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Under the knife

To undergo surgery, dates from the late 19th century, first attested c. 1880.

Under the pump

Under the pump means the same thing as under the cosh or under the gun i.e. to be under pressure, and dates in this sense from the 1950s. There is lit...

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