A-Z Database

A-Z Database

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Navy SEALs

Elite special operations unit of the US Navy founded in 1961. SEAL is an acronym for SEa, Air and Land.


A primitive species of man, which was first discovered in 1856 in the Neanderthal Valley in Germany.

Near the bone

Language or behaviour that borders on the indecent, sometimes expressed as a bit close to the bone. The expression dates from the late 19th century an...

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Neat as a pin

As neat as a new pin dates from the 18th century and refers to the large, ornamental pins that women used to wear in their hair.

Necessity is the mother of invention

The supposition that needfulness or compulsion drives creativity is an anonymous Latin proverb from ancient Roman times and probably before. The origi...

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Neck and crop

Neck and crop means ‘completely, totally or comprehensively’ and dates from the 18th century. It was originally used to describe a comprehensive and s...

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Neck of the woods

Meaning a specific location is of American origin, dating from the early 19th century when many Americans lived in woodland areas and so it meant in t...

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Describes a contest so close that the winner cannot be predicted with certainty; dates from the late 18th century in relation to horseracing but figur...

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To neck or to indulge in necking is to embrace and kiss intimately and is originally an American expression first recorded in the early 19th century.

Needle in a haystack

Trying to find a needle in a haystack describes a well-nigh impossible task and first appears in this form during the 1700s. Before this, during the 1...

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Needle someone

To annoy or irritate someone; this figurative use derives from the allusion of literally goading or pricking someone with a sharp needle, hence ‘give...

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Neither a borrower nor a lender be

This maxim is not a proverb and was in fact coined by Shakespeare in Hamlet (1601) Act I, Scene III. The full quotation is, “Neither a borrower nor a...

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Neither fish nor fowl (nor good red herring)

These days, neither fish nor fowl means neither one thing nor the other and dates in this form only from the early 19th century. When it first appeare...

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Neither hide nor hair

Usually in the form of ‘I have seen neither hide nor hair of that person for some time now’ which means there has not been the faintest trace of such...

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Nelson Mandela

Rhyming slang for Stella Artois a brand of Belgian beer, Nelson Mandela/Stella, dates from the early 1990s.

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