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

A cenotaph is an empty tomb, from the Greek cenos meaning empty and taphos meaning tomb. The Cenotaph at Whitehall, London, was originally erected to...

Read More

Centre stage

To take centre stage is to occupy the main position of focus and attention, derives obviously from the world of theatre and dates from 17th century.


British slang for £100 dates from the early 20th century.

Chalfont St Giles

Rhyming slang for haemorrhoids, Chalfont St Giles/piles, dates from the 1980s as in expressions like my Chalfonts are killing me. Chalfont St Giles is...

Read More

Chalk and cheese

The complete expression is as different as chalk and cheese, clearly two things that could not be more different. The alliteration has kept this old s...

Read More

Chamois leather

see Shammy

Champ at the bit

To champ at the bit is to be eager and impatient to start something or other, and dates in this figurative sense from the mid-1600s. It obviously allu...

Read More

Chance one’s arm

Take a chance or take a calculated risk, this British expression dates from the late 19th century and there are at least three theories about its orig...

Read More

Chance would be a fine thing

An informal UK expression usually said when something is wished for or postulated but is unlikely to happen. For example, the statement, “I would hate...

Read More

Change one’s tack/ change of tack

The figurative meaning of this old nautical term indicating a change of conduct, argument, strategy or action, as opposed to its original meaning of c...

Read More

Change one’s tune

To change one’s tune means to change one’s mind, story or argument and dates in this figurative sense from the early 1500s.

Change/swap horses in midstream

This expression is usually used in the negative i.e. don’t change horses in midstream and is a warning not to alter one’s tactics while in the middle...

Read More


Colloquial expression for a fellow or a lad since the 18th century but derives from a much older English word chapman, which in The Middle Ages meant...

Read More

Chapter and verse

This phrase was originally the exact reference to a passage of scripture in the Bible but by the early 1600s was being used figuratively to refer to a...

Read More


see Charwoman

back to top