A-Z Database

A-Z Database

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Hit the mattresses

This is 20th century American-Italian slang, typically Mafia, for going to war against rivals. It derives from sleeping rough, on mattresses, in safe...

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Hit the nail on the head

Get to the precise point, to do or say something exactly right, its literal use of course as in carpentry must be centuries old, but its figurative us...

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Hit the road

To leave, an American expression dates from the late 19th century.

Hit the roof

Generally means to become very angry, but could also refer to prices, for example, that are excessively high. It is an American expression that dates...

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Hit the sack

see hit the hay/sack

Hit the spot

Usually said of food or drink that satisfies perfectly is an American colloquialism from the mid-19th century.

Hit the straps

Get into one’s stride, to be up and running and performing well; dates from the early 20th century. Itinerant bush workers in Australia would decamp,...

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Hit the wall

Reach one’s limit, especially physical endurance as in long-distance running, lack of sleep etc. from the obvious allusion of hitting a barrier. It is...

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Hit/hit it off/ hit on/ hit the mark

Hit as in something successful dates from the early 19th century because it hit the mark. Hitting the mark in turn derives from target shooting (arche...

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The word hitch dates from the mid-17th century and refers to a short, abrupt movement, a pull, push, jerk or lift. From the latter sense, we get a clu...

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Meaning a trick or deception dates from the late 18th century and the OED maintains it is probably a contraction of hocus. See hocus pocus.


The current meaning and usage of hob-nob is to socialise on familiar terms and dates from the early 19th century. Earlier, from the 1600s, it had spec...

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A hobbyhorse is a pet topic or personal interest, sometimes to the point of obsession, dates in this sense from the mid-17th century. Its abbreviation...

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A tramp or vagrant, an American expression dates from the late 19th century. Its origin is unknown.

Hobson’s choice

No choice at all, a take-it-or-leave-it offer, so called after one Thomas Hobson (1545-1631) who ran a successful horse rental business in Cambridge....

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