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
Hold water

If an opinion or theory holds water it means that it is valid or passes scrutiny. This expression dates from c.1600 from the obvious allusion to a sou...

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Hold your horses

Although grooms and riders have been holding or controlling horses for centuries, the figurative meaning of this expression as in to wait and be patie...

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Holding the baby/bag

To be left holding the bag means to be landed with the responsibility of resolving some unwanted situation or other and dates from the mid-1700s. Befo...

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Holding thumbs

see Fingers crossed


The British equivalent of the American vacation derives from religious holy days Christmas, Easter etc when people were exempt from work. The word had...

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Means obnoxiously pious or sanctimonious but only acquired this meaning in the late 19th century. Before this, it was a straightforward quotation from...

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Meaning to shout, holler is a late 17th/early 18th century American variation of the 16th century English foxhunting cry of hallo or halloo.

Hollow victory

A hollow victory is a victory that is unsatisfying or has some other unexpected or disappointing consequence that takes the edge off the win. The expr...

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In the days of the old cut-throat razor during the 18th and 19th centuries, the razors were generally hollow-ground i.e. the steel was ground so that...

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Holy cow

Like all exclamations involving the word holy, this one is American and dates from the 1920s; why cow remains obscure at best, despite attempts to ass...

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Holy mackerel

American exclamation of surprise, supposedly a euphemism for holy Mary or holy Michael, dates from the early 19th century, with perhaps a dig at macke...

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Holy Moley

Not that there is much wrong with holy Moses but this appears to be a rhyming euphemism for the latter, which dates in America from the late 19th/earl...

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Holy Moses

American exclamation of surprise, with mock-religious connotations, dates from c. 1850.

Holy smoke

American exclamation of surprise dates from the late 19th century with possible allusion to incense.

Home and dry

To have successfully completed something is a British expression that dates from the late 19th century, thought to be derived from completing military...

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