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
By heart

Recite or know something from memory dates from the 1300s, deriving from the very old notion that the heart was the seat of not only emotions but also...

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By hook or by crook

A very old expression dates from the 14th century. Misguidedly, it has come to mean by fair means or foul because the word crook is mistakenly associa...

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By Jove/Jupiter

By Jove and by Jupiter are mild oaths that have been in use since the 16th century. Jove is an alternative form of Jupiter, the principal Roman God wh...

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By no/not by any stretch of the imagination

Both these versions of the same expression emphasize that something is definitely not the case or that something is impossible to believe, even after...

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By the board

see Go by the board


By the book

To do things by the book is to do them correctly, perhaps fastidiously, according to the rules. The expression has been in popular usage since the lat...

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By the by

This odd expression dates from the 17th century and means incidentally, of secondary importance or off the main track and it is the latter meaning tha...

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By the cringe

This expression of surprise, wonderment or shock was coined, it is thought, by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, the writers of the BBC (British Broadc...

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By the same token

A somewhat curious expression that variously means 'for the same reason', 'in the same vein', 'by the same meaning', and sometimes simply 'moreover' o...

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By the seat of one’s pants

see Fly by the seat of one’s pants


By the short and curlies

see Short and curlies


By the short hair/s

see Short hair/s


By the skin of one’s teeth

This expression first appears in the Geneva Bible (1560), Job 19: 20, when Job says, “I have escaped with the skin of my teeth.” Presumably, Job meant...

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By the way

Today it means incidentally or in passing and the latter phrase is the clue to its origin from the late Middle Ages when it meant literally to pass so...

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By their fruits, you shall know them

This expression from the New Testament has come to mean that one can only truly evaluate someone’s performance by the results delivered. The source is...

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