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
Beggars can’t be choosers

is an Old English proverb that dates from at least the 16th century and probably before, it is mentioned in John Heywood Proverbs (1546). “Beggars sho...

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Behind the curve

see Ahead of the curve


Behind the eight ball

To get behind the eight ball is to be in a difficult position from which it is well nigh impossible to escape. The expression is American and dates fr...

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Behind the scenes

Out of public view, secret or confidential, dates in this figurative sense from the mid-19th century and derives from the world of theatre.


Bell the cat

Rarely heard these days, “Who will bell the cat?” meaning, who will undertake a perilous assignment used to be a popular expression down the centuries...

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Bell, book and candle

This phrase, which made its first appearance in English c. 1300, has existed in other forms, notably Latin, from at least the 8th century. It describe...

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Bells and whistles

Bells and whistles is a phrase that describes the attractive, additional extras and features of any item, usually used in an effort to sell or promote...

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Bells on

see With bells/knobs on


Bellwether

A leader, pace or trendsetter as in a bellwether stock, which is usually a blue-chip stock definitive of its industry sector. Bellwether dates origina...

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Belly-up

Belly-up has meant dead or dying since the 18th century, probably from the way dead or dying fish float belly-up in water. Belly-up in the sense of ba...

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Below par

If the context is golf, below par means very good or excellent. Out of the context of golf, it means the complete opposite. For example, if someone’s...

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Below the belt

Meaning unfair is from the late 19th century and derives from boxing. Following the rules laid down by the Marquis of Queensbury in 1867, pugilists we...

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Belt

To give someone or something a good belt is to hit, thrash or tackle with gusto and dates from the early 19th century. It derives from thrashing someo...

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Belt and braces

A belt and braces approach or policy is one that has double security or provides two means for the same end. The expression dates from the 1930s with...

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Belt up

British slang for shut up which dates from the 1930s. Eric Partridge's Dictionary of Slang maintains the source is RAF slang, but gives no further exp...

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