A-Z Database

A-Z Database

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Chequered career/past

We often talk about a person as having had a chequered career or past and this figurative usage dates from the mid-1600s and means full of alternation...

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Cherchez la femme

Cherchez la femme is French for look for the woman and is a cynical imperative to look for the presence of a woman in any intrigue or scandal. It was...

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British informal for a young, virginal girl and also can refer to virginity itself, deriving from the supposed similarity of the fruit to the hymen. I...

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Cherry pick

Cherry picker is originally a British nautical expression, dating from the late 19th/early 20th century for an inferior seaman who would pick or choos...

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Cheshire Cat

see Grin like a Cheshire cat

Chest Bump

A form of celebration when two men, usually in a sporting context, bump their chests together. It dates from the early 21st century and is thought to...

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Chestnut (as in that old chestnut!)

A chestnut meaning a venerable old joke or story is from the late 19th century and is thought to have originated in America despite its first appearan...

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Chestnuts out of the fire

see Pull chestnuts out of the fire

Chew one’s arm/hand off

see Bite/chew one’s arm/hand off

Chew the fat

Idle talk or chatter that first appears as a British military expression for grumbling or complaining during the late 19th century. It was very quickl...

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Stylish, fashionable, dates from the mid-19th century, derives from the French chic, which originally meant smart rather than stylish, but it has now...

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Chick has been a term of endearment for a child for centuries, from at least the late 1400s. It became popular again in America during the 1920s and s...

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Chick flick

Describes a genre of movies made specifically to appeal to young women, an Americanism that dates from the late 1980s. See also Flick.


Chicken or chicken-hearted has been a metaphor for cowardice since the early 1600s and derives from the timid and submissive behaviour of chickens.

Chicken feed

American informal for a paltry sum of money dates from c. 1840 and derives from the low cost of chicken food.

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