A-Z Database

A-Z Database

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Cul de sac

This French phrase meaning bottom of the bag passed into English during the 18th century and describes a blind alley, either literally or figuratively...

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Now part of men’s formal dinner dress as a sash worn around the waist, dates from the early 17th century, the OED gives the first citation from 1616....

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Originally, the female pudenda and the word was inoffensive and in wide usage from at least the early 13th century. At this time, Gropecunte Lane was...

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Low term of abuse for an ugly person dates from the late 19th century.


Enamoured of women, low colloquialism dates from the late 18th century.

Cup of tea

Tea only started to become popular in Britain during the latter half of the 17th century but now of course it is very much the national drink. After o...

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Curate’s egg

A curate’s egg is something that is partly good but partly bad and therefore not satisfactory. The expression derives from a cartoon in Punch in 1895,...

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Curfew derives from the 14th century Old French cuevre feu (modern French couvre feu) literally translated as ‘cover fire’. It was a sort of metal pla...

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Curiosity killed the cat

This expression means that inquisitiveness can often have dangerous consequences. The expression was originally ‘care killed the cat’ when the word ‘c...

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A niggardly, churlish, bad tempered person dates from the late 16th century; The OED gives 1577 as the first citation. Despite many attempts to link i...

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Currant bun

Rhyming slang for the sun, currant bun/sun, sometimes also used for son; dates from the 1930s.

Curry favour

This expression has nothing whatsoever to do with Indian food. In The Middle Ages, curry meant to prepare, groom and equip horses, from the Old French...

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Curtain raiser

Originally, from the late 19th century, c. 1886, a curtain raiser was a short, one-act play that preceded the main play in the theatre. Now it has com...

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When we say it's curtains for someone or something, it means the end, demise, and sometimes the death of someone. Curtains used in this sense dates fr...

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