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
Greasy spoon

A cheap, dingy café or restaurant, an Americanism that dates from the early 20th century from the allusion to dirty or unwashed cutlery, now almost pa...

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Great balls of fire!

An American exclamation of amazement or surprise dates from the late 19th century. One of its earliest citations is in an Iowa newspaper the Hawarden...

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Great guns

see Going great guns


Great Scott

An exclamation of surprise or incredulity and is almost certainly American from the mid-19th century but soon anglicised and in wide use by the end of...

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Great shakes

see No great shakes


Greatness

“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Shakespeare’s famous lines on gre...

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Greek fire

Greek fire was a combustible, incendiary weapon invented by the Greeks of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire around 672 AD. Many ancient civilisati...

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Greek to me

It’s all Greek to me means that something is as incomprehensible as Greek would be to someone who did not know the language. Shakespeare uses the expr...

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Green about the gills

Gills, of course, are the organs through which fish breathe, but from the early 1600s gills also described the flesh under the jaws and ears of humans...

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Green fingers

The ability to grow things, British expression dates from c. 1930, presumably from the green-stained fingers of avid gardeners. The Americans say, gre...

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Green with envy

Shakespeare was the first to form an association between jealousy and the colour green in The Merchant of Venice (1596) Act III, Scene II when he desc...

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Greenhorn

Despite its adoption in America to describe a young, inexperienced novice, this is an old English word dating from around 1460 when it was first used...

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Grin like a Cheshire cat

This expression for a broad grin or excessive smile has been around in English since the late 18th century and was already well established when Lewis...

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Grind

As in daily grind or a dull, laborious task, a metaphor from grinding or milling that dates from the mid-19th century.


Grind one’s teeth

In the literal sense, to produce a grating sound with the teeth dates from the early 15th century, whereas the figurative sense of showing determinati...

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