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
Back off

Retreat or cease annoying someone, an American expression dates from the 1930s.

Back on the horse

see Back in the saddle/on the horse

Back to square one

Means to start again from the beginning and despite the many claims that the expression is British, the first citation is American from the Economic J...

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Back to the drawing board

“Ah well, back to the drawing board” was the jocular caption of a Peter Arno cartoon that first appeared in New Yorker Magazine in 1941. It depicted a...

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Back to the grindstone

see Nose to the grindstone


Backbone, when referring to the spinal column dates from the 1300s, but it has been a metaphor for firmness and strength of character since the mid-19...

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see Keep/put something on the backburner


Answering back impudently to someone in authority, backchat is thought to be an informal British expression, deriving from the military and dates from...

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Backdoor trot

British slang for diarrhoea dates from the late 19th century. Backdoor has been a euphemism for anus since the 18th century. Hence, 'a gentleman or us...

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Today backlog means arrears but this meaning only dates from the early 20th century. Before then, it meant something held in reserve. Going further b...

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Backs to the wall

Sometimes expressed as backs against the wall, this expression is from warfare and dates from the 16th century. It now means any desperate, last ditch...

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Bacon is modern, 21st century American slang for the police, a development from pig/ pigs, which dates from the 1960s. See also Bring home the bacon a...

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Bad apple

see Rotten apple

Bad ass

American slang for a bad, dangerous person, dates from the 1950s.

Bad blood

The origin of this well-known metaphor for ill feeling, animosity or antipathy between people has its roots in the ancient practice of bloodletting in...

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