A-Z Database

A-Z Database

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This has now come to mean a fuss or an unnecessary complication; a situation that has gone slightly out of control, usually accompanied with unproduct...

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see Beyond the pale

Pale and wan

Wan is a Middle English word (1150-1350) meaning pallid or sickly. Pale and wan is attributed to the poet Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) “As pale and wan...

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Pale as a ghost

First citation for this is American from 1794.


A dull, clumsy, stupid person, especially a boxer, an American expression allegedly coined by humourist and sports writer Jack Conway in 1925.

Pan out

American informal expression meaning to see how things turn out, dates from the mid-18th century and derives from panning for gold.


Means uproar, complete confusion, but only acquired this meaning during the 18th century. The word itself was coined by John Milton in Paradise Lost i...

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Pandora’s Box

Opening Pandora’s Box is to cause great trouble and strife and the expression in English dates from the 1500s, although it was also known to the ancie...

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Panic button

Alarm or emergency device activated by means of a button, derives from the bell-warning devices on American B-17 and B-24 bombers during WWII, which s...

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Panic stations

A state of high alert, often used in a comical context, but in reality was far from comical when first cited during the First World War. The first cit...

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It is called a pantry because it was originally used in the 1400s to store bread, from the Old French paneterie, Latin panis and modern French pain fo...

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Paper tiger

This expression became popular after WWII when it was used by the then Communist Chinese regime to describe their opponents, in particular the USA. Pa...

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A condiment prepared from dried sweet, red peppers. Paprika is simply Hungarian and Serbo-Croat for pepper and entered the English language during the...

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Par for the course

Par for the course constitutes blatant misuse of the golfing term because it means average. Whereas par for the course in golfing terms means excellen...

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Originally Australian and New Zealand informal expression for very drunk, dates from c. 1910.

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