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
Ace

Ace as in an expert fighter pilot, according to the OED, was coined in 1917 during the First World War, where an ace was any pilot credited with three...

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Ace in the hole

This is an American expression dating from the late 19th century, where to have an ace in the hole means that one possesses an advantage that can prov...

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Ace up one’s sleeve

This expression has come to mean that one has a surprise or fallback plan that is likely to ensure success. The origin dates back to the early 17th ce...

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Achilles heel

A well-known figurative expression to denote a point of weakness or vulnerability but not necessarily fatal as in the classical myth of Achilles. As t...

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Acid drop

A hard, sharp-tasting confectionery or sweet produced from boiling, then cooling a sugar mixture. In this cooling process, the shape of the sweet rese...

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Acid test

This expression is usually found in the form of passing or undergoing the acid test. Since the late 19th century, the acid test has meant a decisive,...

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Ack-Ack gun

An anti-aircraft gun was first called an Ack-Ack gun during WWI because A in the military alphabet at that time was Ack in the same way as A is Alfa t...

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Across the board

Applying to all or everything in general and in this sense dates from the early 20th century. Earlier, during the 19th century, it was a term for spre...

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Act/play the giddy goat

To act or play the giddy goat is to clown around or play the fool in a boisterous manner and dates in this sense from the late 19th century. The word...

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Actions speak louder than words

This is one of those sayings where the thought behind the words is probably as ancient as language itself. It has variously been attributed to the anc...

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Ad-lib

To improvise, particularly on stage is an abbreviation of the Latin ad libitum, which means, at one’s pleasure. Its use in English dates from the 16th...

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Adam and Eve

Rhyming slang for believe, Adam and Eve/believe, as in saying for example, “Would you Adam ‘n Eve it! It dates from the early 20th century.


Adam the gardener

Whilst prostitution is considered the oldest profession, gardening is the oldest pastime. Those who love gardening should take great solace from the f...

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Adam’s ale

This reference to the only drink available in the Garden of Eden, namely water, is thought to be of Puritan origin during the 17th century.


Adam’s apple

The thyroid cartilage at the front of the neck, known as the Adam’s apple, seems to be more prominent in men than in women. Hence, the story that it w...

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