A-Z Database

A-Z Database

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Knocked up

Meaning pregnant is American slang from the early 19th century, possibly deriving from the earlier 16th century word knock meaning to copulate.


British and Australian slang for female breasts dates from the mid-20th century.

Knocking shop

Slang for a brothel, dates from the mid-19th century. See also knock.

Knockout/knocked out

Originally a boxing term from the late 18th century, applied to a contestant who fails to beat the count, but from the 1960s used metaphorically to de...

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Why is the speed of a ship measured in knots? What is a knot? A knot is the time it takes to travel one nautical mile, a distance of 1.852 km or 1.507...

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Know from a bar of soap

Usually expressed in the negative e.g. “I don't know him/her from a bar of soap” and is thought to be of Australian origin from the early 20th century...

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Know from Adam

see Know from a bar of soap

Know how many beans make five

Many older people in Britain remember, 'how many beans make five?' as a childhood quiz, to which the answer was, 'a bean, another bean, a bean and a h...

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Know like the back of one’s hand

One would imagine that we really know the back of our own hands very well, considering that our hands are in front of us all the time. Thus, the meani...

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Know on which side one’s bread is buttered

Know where one’s advantage lays, an old proverb that first appears in John Heywood Proverbs (1546).

Know one's onions

Somewhat surprisingly, the origin of this expression, which means to know one’s stuff, is American from the 1920s. At the time, there was a whole host...

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Know one’s beans

see Know how many beans make five

Know your onions

see Know one's onions

Know/learn/show (someone) the ropes

In all the variations of this expression, the ropes are the basic techniques that a sailor must learn about ropes and knots that were critical to seam...

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Knowing what’s what

To know what's what means to have a good general understanding or knowledge and is first attested from Charles Dickens Pickwick Papers (1837), “She kn...

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