A-Z Database

A-Z Database

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Stand/stick out like sore thumb

To be extremely conspicuous, rather like a thumb held upright with a bandage around it. The expression is originally American and dates from the 1930s...

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Standoffish

To be standoffish is to be aloof and like aloof it was originally a nautical term from the 16th century. When a ship came into harbour, it would of co...

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Star-crossed lovers

Shakespeare’s famous description of ill-fated Romeo and Juliet (c.1594), “A pair of star-crossed lovers” line six of the opening prologue of the play.

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Starboard

The right hand side of a ship or a nautical direction or heading, dates back to the early days of shipping, pre-12th century, when it was originally k...

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Staring down the barrel

Anyone staring down the barrel (of a gun) is in a perilous situation. These days it is frequently used in sporting contexts where a team or a player i...

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Stark naked

Stark naked means to be stripped down with absolutely no clothing and dates from the 16th century. According to the OED, this expression does not deri...

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Stark raving mad

Stark meaning absolute or unmitigated dates from the 14th century as does the phrase stark mad. By the 17th century, the phrase was further intensifie...

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Starkers

British slang for stark naked from the late 19th/early 20th century and is a good example of what lexicographers call the Oxford –er, which is the sho...

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Start from scratch

see Scratch


Start/get/keep the ball rolling

To start or get the ball rolling means to get something started, to initiate a discussion, a project, etc. To keep the ball rolling is to prolong what...

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State of the art

The latest, newest, most advanced state of anything is first attested from 1910 and was first used in the context of engineering. The OED maintains th...

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Stay in the hunt

see In/out of the hunt


Steal a march on someone or something

Stealing a march has come to mean the gaining of an advantage, especially secretly or slyly and dates in this sense from latter half of the 1700s. The...

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Steal someone’s thunder

To steal someone’s thunder means to detract from the kudos or attention due to someone by forestalling or pre-empting them. The source is John Dennis...

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Steeplechase

A horse race over hurdles or fences, as opposed to a race on the ‘flat’ without such obstacles. A steeplechase race in this sense dates from the late...

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