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
Dead to rights

see Bang to rights

Dead/centre/certain/right/straight etc

The first figurative use of dead as applied to things other than people is from the 1400s but dead as an intensifier meaning exact, precise or unerrin...

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American slang for a worthless individual dates from the mid-19th century, where ‘dead’ is an intensifier for ‘beat’, which used to mean to swindle or...

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Deadeye Dick

Deadeye is American slang for a sharpshooter or an expert shot and is from the late 19th century. The addition of the name Dick is purely alliterative...

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Meaning a set time limit is from US newspaper jargon from around 1920. The origin is thought to come from US military prisons during the American Civi...

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Impassive, expressionless, giving nothing away is American from c. 1928 and derives from having an expressionless face like a flat pan.

Deaf as a post

Obviously, there is little point in talking to a wooden post or any other inanimate object, hence the expression as deaf as a post which dates from th...

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Deafening silence

This famous oxymoron dates from around 1830 when it first appeared in print but no one knows who coined it.

Dear/dearie me

This is a polite invocation that variously expresses sympathy, surprise, distress or criticism, very much dependent on the context. Its diminutive, de...

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Death and taxes

This famous phrase was coined by Benjamin Franklin in 1789 in a letter to Jean Baptiste Leroy. “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.”

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Death warmed up

To look or feel like death warmed up is to look or feel very ill. It is a British colloquial expression from the late 1930s and it not known who coine...

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Death where is thy sting?

See O Death where is thy sting?

Death’s door

To be at death’s door is to be at the point of dying, dates from the 17th century.


Synonym for skull dates from the 16th century. Shakespeare uses it in Henry IV Part II, Act II, Scene IV. “Do not speak like a death’s-head; not bid m...

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see Bunkum/Bunk

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