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
On one’s jack

see Jack/Jack Jones


On one’s last legs

see Last legs


On one’s mettle

To be on one’s mettle means to be ready and primed to perform at one’s best and the expression dates in this sense from the late 16th century. Mettle...

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On one’s plate

One can have enough, a lot, too little or too much on one’s plate, meaning on one’s agenda. This figurative allusion to a plate of food dates from 192...

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On one’s tod

see Tod


On one’s uppers

Reduced to poverty an American informal expression that dates from the late 18th/early 19th century from the allusion to being reduced to the upper pa...

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On song

On song is a British informal expression that dates from the 1960s and means to operate at peak efficiency, most often found in a sporting context, es...

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On tenterhooks

In a state of agonising suspense, the expression dates from the mid-18th century but is preceded by an earlier expression ‘on tenters’ meaning the sam...

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On the back burner

see Keep/put something on the back burner.


On the back/front foot

To be on the back foot generally means to be on the defensive or to be unprepared, while to be on the front foot means the opposite. When the word ‘ca...

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On the ball

This American expression dates from the early 20th century. Its origin is baseball where pitchers would put something on the ball to make it swerve an...

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On the blink

Usually used to describe a machine or appliance that is not working properly or perhaps not working at all, dates from the late 19th century when prim...

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On the bones of one’s arse

Impecunious or broke, a somewhat vulgar British metaphor that dates from the mid-20th century and derives from the notion of hitting rock bottom so ha...

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On the bounce

This expression first recorded in America in the early 19th century, means to do things briskly or rapidly. More recently, in Britain from the mid-20t...

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On the button

Perfectly placed or perfectly correct, in the correct spot, an American expression that dates from the 1930s. It does not derive from button as in clo...

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