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
Bald as a coot

This is an old expression dating from the 15th century and derives from the coot, fulica atra, a web-footed water bird that is also known as the bald...

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Balderdash

It is a pity that such a lovely expressive word meaning rubbish or nonsense should have an origin shrouded in mystery and conjecture. There is somethi...

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Ball is in your court

The origin of this expression is tennis when the next move in the game has to be from the ball-receiver. Its figurative sense, meaning the transferenc...

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Ball of chalk

If something has gone for a ball of chalk, it means that something is a complete mess or disaster. That is why it is difficult to equate its current m...

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Ball of fire

A dynamic person capable of displaying rapid and effective thought and action; the metaphor dates from the early 19th century, despite fruitless etymo...

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Ball of wax

see Whole ball of wax


Ball/Balls/Balls-up

Ball as in a dance dates from the early 1600s and derives from the French bal or baller meaning dance or to dance. Balls meaning testicles has been in...

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Balling the jack

This is an American slang expression dating from the 1920s meaning to go fast or take off at top speed. It became the particular jargon of US railroad...

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Ballistic

This word was first used to describe rocket-powered missiles c.1954 and only acquired its figurative meaning of being irrationally angry from the earl...

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Balloon has gone up

This expression dates from the First World War and is now figurative for major trouble ahead. When the troops in the frontlines saw the balloons of th...

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Ballpark

Originally, from the late 19th century, this is an American term for a baseball stadium. Its figurative sense of a reasonably accurate approximation d...

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Balls in the air

see Too many balls in the air


Balls out

To go balls out is to act with maximum speed or vigour and the origin is thought to be a male anatomical vulgarism, most probably American, from WWII....

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Balls-to-the-wall

Usually used as an adjectival phrase as in a balls-to-the-wall effort meaning an all-out, maximum effort. The expression is first cited in the militar...

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Balls-up

A blunder, mistake or error dates from the late 19th/early 20th century and the exact relevance to balls or testicles remains obscure. See also Cock-u...

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