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
Keep your powder dry

see Keep one’s powder dry

Keep your shirt on

An American injunction to stay calm and cool and do not get angry, dates from the mid-19th century and derives from the practice of stripping off one’...

Read More

Keep/put something on the back burner

Put an issue or endeavour aside for now, keeping it on the agenda but not of immediate priority or concern, dates from c. 1960. The metaphor is origin...

Read More

Keeping balls in the air

see Too many balls in the air

Keeping up with the Joneses

Means striving to match the neighbours in spending and social standing, an Americanism that has spread to much of the English-speaking world. It dates...

Read More


This old Scottish dialect word for a commotion, fuss or disturbance has become so popular that the spelling ‘kerfuffle’ has become standard in most di...

Read More


Any sauce made by the reduction of vegetables, especially tomatoes, dates from the early 18th century. (The OED gives 1711 as the first citation.) The...

Read More


Rhyming slang for wristwatch, kettle and hob/fob, dates from the 19th century when most watches were fob watches. The expression, ‘a nice kettle’ refe...

Read More

Kettle of fish

The expression dates from the 18th century and has developed two meanings. Firstly, the original one, a fine kettle of fish means that an awkward or d...

Read More


Khaki is a dusty, brown colour and the colour of the field dress used by the British army since 1899. The word dates from the mid-19th century and der...

Read More


British slang for lavatory dates from the late 19th century. The origin is uncertain but there are two schools of thought. The first is that it is of...

Read More


Rhyming slang for arse, Khyber Pass/arse, dates from the late 19th century.

Kibosh/Put the kibosh on someone or something

Perhaps more widely known from the First World War song, Who Put the Kibosh on the Kaiser? To put the kibosh on someone or something is slang for to r...

Read More

Kick against the pricks

This expression derives from the pricks or goads used to urge on and drive animals. For example, a horse that kicks against the pricks is one that ref...

Read More

Kick ass/butt

To defeat soundly, American slang dates from the 1940s. Also used as an adjective as in a kick-ass idea which means a winning idea.

back to top