A-Z Database

A-Z Database

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Butter no parsnips

The complete proverb is fine words butter no parsnips which means that words by themselves, no matter how fine, can never complete the task or solve t...

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Butter would not melt

This expression for pure innocence first appears in John Heywood Proverbs (1546) “She looketh as butter would not melt in her mouth.”


Butterfingers or to be butter-fingered is a person who drops things as if having butter on the fingers or hands thus making them slippery, dates from...

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Butterflies in the stomach

This expression describes that fluttery feeling in the pit of one’s stomach that we have all experienced at one time or another when nervous. It dates...

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Slang for clitoris from about 1870. Also pugilistic slang for the chin from the early 1900s. See On the button.

Button one’s lip/button up

To stop talking or keep quiet about something dates from the mid-19th century.


To buttonhole someone is to detain them in conversation against their will and dates from the late 19th century. Before this, it was ‘button-hold’ in...

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British slang that dates from the mid-19th century for a page or hotel attendant, from the numerous jacket buttons on tunics or uniforms worn by such.


Originally, Liverpool slang for buttered bread dates from the late 19th century but, in more recent times, spread throughout the North and much of Bri...

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Buy a pup

see Bought/sold a pup

Buy something for a song

see For a song

Buy the farm

see Bought the farm

Buzz/buzz off/buzzword

Buzz is a busy little word. Buzz meaning a busy rumour dates from the early 1600s but made a revival in America in the 1950s when it took on the meani...

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By a hair’s breadth

see By/to/within a hair’s breadth/whisker

By a long chalk

see Not by a long chalk

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