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
Plain Jane

A drab, unattractive girl or woman first attested from 1912. Other than the obvious rhyme no one knows why the name Jane was singled out. The often-en...

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Plain sailing

We all know what it means now - an easy, uncomplicated task of any description, and in this figurative sense, the expression dates from the late 18th/...

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Plates of meat

Rhyming slang for feet, plates of meat/feet, dates from the late 19th century.

Play both ends against the middle

To play both ends against the middle is an American expression that dates from the late 19th century. It describes a strategy of duplicity whereby one...

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Play cat and mouse

To play cat and mouse with someone is to behave towards them as if one were a cat toying with a mouse. In hunting mice, cats do toy with them before f...

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Play ducks and drakes with someone

see Ducks and drakes

Play fast and loose

To play fast and loose is to be unreliable, inconstant and deceitful. The idiom dates from the 1500s and derives from a cheating game called fast and...

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Play gooseberry

see Gooseberry

Play hardball

To play hardball is to act in a ruthless and uncompromising way, an American colloquialism that dates from the late 19th century and derives from base...

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Play hookey/hooky

see Hookey/hooky

Play it again, Sam

This catchphrase was never actually said by either Ingrid Bergman or Humphrey Bogart in the movie Casablanca (1942). As a misquotation it has become m...

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Play it by ear

To play a musical piece by ear is to play it without recourse to a written sheet of music and dates from the early 19th century. More recently, from a...

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Play out of one’s skin

To play out of one’s skin is to perform exceedingly well, beyond one’s normal capabilities or limits, where ‘skin’ is used metaphorically for such lim...

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Play possum

To play possum is to lie low, feign ignorance or inattention, with intent to deceive. In extreme situations it also means to feign death. It is an Ame...

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Play second fiddle

To play second fiddle is to adopt a subsidiary role in deference to someone else and dates in this sense dates from the early 19th century. It derives...

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