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
Clutch/grasp at straws

This expression in its various forms dates from the 1500s and in full would be ‘a drowning man will clutch/grasp at straws’. It signifies a weak or fu...

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Coals to Newcastle

The complete expression is to carry coals to Newcastle, which is the equivalent of embarking upon a useless or pointless undertaking. Newcastle-upon-T...

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Coast

As in to proceed without effort e.g. to coast through school or college; dates from the early 20th century. Etymologically, it derives from its origin...

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Coast is clear

This expression meaning one may proceed without any obstacle or impediment was first used figuratively by Michael Drayton (1563-1631) in a poem entitl...

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Coaster

Coaster as in a small tablemat for drinks or bottles first made its appearance during the 19th century. It derives from the sailing vessel that keeps...

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Coat of paint

This expression sounds most odd in the context of coat meaning an outer garment, but by the 17th century, a coating had become a layer of any substanc...

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Cobber

Australian slang for a friend or mate dates from the late 19th century and one source says it perhaps derives from Suffolk dialect cob meaning to take...

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Cobblers

This expression derives from rhyming slang in the early 20th century, cobblers’ awls/balls, referring to testicles. What a load of cobblers meaning wh...

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Cock

Slang for the penis since the early 1600s and a term of endearment since the 18th century as in old cock meaning old chap.


Cock a snook/snoot

To cock a snook at someone or something means to express contempt or derision is generally attested in Britain from the late 19th century. It derives...

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Cock of the walk

Refers to a swaggering, boastful male in the same way a rooster dominates the henhouse. The expression is American from the mid-19th century.


Cock teaser

A girl or woman who permits and assumes some intimacies but not coitus dates from the early 19th century. See also prick teaser.


Cock-a-hoop

Meaning unbridled joy or exultation, it is first cited for this meaning from the late 17th century, but the origin remains an etymological mystery. Th...

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Cock-and-bull story

A cock-and-bull story is a far-fetched and unbelievable story, which the townsfolk of Stony Stratford in Buckinghamshire will have one believe derives...

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Cock-sure

Cock-sure means absolutely certain, safe or secure and dates from c. 1520 according to the OED. The origin is uncertain, but the OED hints that it may...

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