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
Days of the week

Date from Anglo-Saxon times i.e. prior to the Norman invasion of 1066. Sunday is the day of the sun, Monday is the day of the moon. Tuesday is the day...

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Days of wine and roses

The full quotation is, “They are not long, the days of wine and roses.” It derives from the poem Vitae Summa Brevis written by Ernest Dowson in 1896.

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Dead as a dodo

The flightless bird, the dodo, from the Portuguese doudo meaning simpleton and now extinct, was last seen on the island of Mauritius during the late 1...

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Dead as a doornail

This very old expression has been around since the mid-14th century where it first appears in Pier’s Plowman (1350) and refers to the heavy studded na...

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Dead as mutton

A curious simile because mutton is slaughtered sheep and could not be anything but dead, nevertheless it dates from the late 18th century.


Dead ball

A ball that is out of play or deemed out of play - first known usage according to the OED is 1658.


Dead duck/meat

These are American colloquial expressions from the early 19th century, now usually referring to a human corpse but originally from hunting.


Dead end

In the sense of a road or passage without an exit, dates from the late 19th century. In the sense of a dead-end job or pastime, dates from the early 2...

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Dead in the water

If something is dead in the water it means it is incapable of further progress and dates in this figurative sense from the mid-19th century, but deriv...

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Dead letter (drop)

A dead letter is originally a statute or law that is no longer observed, dates from the mid-1600s. Later, from c. 1700 it referred to unclaimed mail t...

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Dead man’s handle/switch

A handle or switch that stops a train or other machinery if the operator releases it. They are so-called because if solo train drivers or operators we...

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Dead reckoning

A method of estimating the position of a ship and navigating it based purely on calculation i.e. compass direction, speed and time elapsed since the l...

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Dead ringer

Dead ringer is an American expression dating from the late 19th century meaning an exact duplicate. 'Dead' here is used simply as an intensifier to ad...

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Dead rubber

see Rubber


Dead soldier

Military slang from the late 19th/early 20th century for an empty bottle of beer or wine, derives from empty bottles lying about after a drinking spre...

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