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
Old Nick

This has been a nickname (no connection or pun) for the Devil since the 17th century but the origin or association with the name Nick remains unknown....

Read More

Old wives’ tale

An old wives’ tale is a widely held belief that has been proved to be apocryphal or incorrect, of the kind told by garrulous old women. Although it ap...

Read More

Oldest profession

see World’s oldest profession

Oldest trick in the book

A ruse or ploy so hackneyed that it should not deceive anyone, the expression dates from the early 19th century. Book here is used in the sense of a b...

Read More

Olive branch

As in expressions like to extend/offer/give the olive branch, it means to make peace or end conflicts and differences of opinion. The olive branch or...

Read More


An ombudsman is an official appointed to investigate complaints from individuals against maladministration by public bodies or authorities. According...

Read More


Commonly used acronym these days for Oh my God/goodness/gosh in text messaging and email. OMG was added to the OED in March 2011, along with LOL and F...

Read More

On a hiding to nothing

To be on a hiding to nothing is one of those ambiguous expressions that can mean one of two things. It can mean a pointless exercise where there is no...

Read More

On a limb

see Out on a limb

On a shoestring

see Shoestring

On a wing and a prayer

This expression describes a desperate, dire situation where one can only rely on hope and prayer. It was coined by American songwriter, Harold Adamson...

Read More

On hollow ground/shaky ground

see Stand on hollow/shaky ground

On like a scone

This appears to be a uniquely South African expression, an affirmative response to a question like, “I’m off to the pub, are you on? Response, “I’m on...

Read More

On one's merry way

see Go on one's merry way

On one’s beam-end/ends

To be on one’s beam-end or beam-ends is to be destitute or almost destitute and dates in this figurative sense from the 1830s. The origin is almost ce...

Read More

back to top