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
Fire someone

As in to dismiss or discharge from employment, was originally American slang from the late 19th century but is now part of Standard English. It derive...

Read More


Originally, a piece of wood kindled with fire at one-end and carried as a torch dates from the late 14th /early 15th century. Within a short while the...

Read More

Fired up

An American expression meaning angry or highly charged dates from the early 19th century.

Fired, as in dismissed or discharged from employment

see Fire someone.

Firing on all cylinders

The first figurative use of this idiom, meaning to work or perform at maximum efficiency is recorded in America from 1912. It obviously derives from t...

Read More

First base

see Touch base

First dibs

To have dibs or first dibs is to have the right to choose or share something and is first recorded in this sense in America during the 1930s. Earlier,...

Read More

Fish nor fowl

see Neither fish nor fowl

Fish out of water

Out of place, in an uncomfortable environment, no doubt a very ancient metaphor of which the first known use is Chaucer Canterbury Tales c. 1385.

Fishing expedition

To embark on a fishing expedition means to trawl for information and dates in this figurative sense from the 1930s.


Today it is generally used disparagingly to describe a loud, coarse woman. Originally, during the 16th century a fishwife was simply a woman who sold...

Read More


Questionable, dubious or shady dates from the 19th century, presumably from the smell.

Fist pump

Celebratory gesture made with a clenched fist, the phrase and probably the gesture dates from the 1960s in America but seems to have spread throughout...

Read More

Fit as a butcher’s dog

Very fit, very healthy, from the assumption that a butcher’s dog is well fed on meat scraps and is therefore very fit and healthy, dates from the mid...

Read More

Fit as a fiddle

In the late 16th century, from when the expression dates, fit meant fine or seemly and had nothing to do with physical fitness. A fiddle or a violin w...

Read More

back to top