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
Proud as a peacock

The peacock has been used as a symbol of vanity and ostentation since ancient times, in English, certainly from The Middle Ages. Chaucer in The Reeve’...

Read More

Ps and Qs

see Mind one’s Ps and Qs

Publish and be damned

The coining of this expression is attributed to Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) who directed it at Harriette Wilson, one of his many...

Read More


Pukka means sure, certain, thorough or the genuine article, and dates in English from the late 17th century. It derives from the Hindi pakka meaning r...

Read More

Pull a fast one

Play an unfair trick, to get away with something deceitful, an Americanism dates from the 1920s, perhaps from to play fast and loose.

Pull chestnuts out of the fire

There are many fables in many languages, certainly French and English, about a clever monkey or fox using a cat’s paw or foot to pull hot, roasted che...

Read More

Pull finger/pull your finger out

Pull finger or pull one’s finger out means to stop messing about, or stop standing by idly, and get a move on with whatever task is at hand. Some sour...

Read More

Pull one’s punches

To pull one’s punches means to use less force or to be lenient, and this figurative usage dates from the 1930s. The expression derives, of course, fro...

Read More

Pull oneself together

Regain control of one’s composure and emotions, otherwise risk falling apart, dates from the second half of the 19th century.

Pull oneself up by the bootstraps

To pull oneself up by the bootstraps is an American metaphor for making a superhuman effort on one’s own, without any help from others, in attempting...

Read More

Pull out all the stops

This figurative expression means to exert or apply maximum effort and derives from organ-playing, when an organist has to display maximum dexterity by...

Read More

Pull someone’s coat

US slang meaning to warn or alert someone, from the allusion to tugging on their clothing, dates from the 1950s.

Pull someone’s leg

see Leg pulling

Pull strings

This metaphor derives from the strings or wires that manipulate puppets. Hence, to pull strings means to use one’s influence to manipulate a situation...

Read More

Pull the carpet/rug from under someone’s feet

Remove all support, cause someone to fail or fall, dates from c.1946 and is of American origin.

back to top