A-Z Database

A-Z Database

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Steer clear (of)

A typical example of a very old nautical phrase coming into everyday usage. To steer clear of something or somebody is to avoid them completely and da...

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To travel steerage is to travel by ship at the cheapest possible rate and dates from the late 18th/early 19th century. It derives from being accommoda...

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Step on someone’s toes

see Tread on someone’s toes

Step up to the plate

Means to take up a challenge or take action in response to an opportunity or crisis and dates in this sense from the mid-19th century. The expression...

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Sterling as in pounds sterling refers to British money but the word sterling on its own is first cited from the late 1400s when it referred specifical...

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Stew/Stew in one’s own juice

To stew meaning to be left to suffer the natural consequences of one’s own actions dates in this sense from the mid-17th century. To stew in one’s own...

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Stick a toe/toes in the water

see Dip one’s toe/toes in the water

Stick in the mud

A stick in the mud is a spoilsport or an overly staid, conservative person and this usage dates from the mid-19th century and derives from the obvious...

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Stick one’s neck out

Means to take a risk, expose oneself to danger and is American from c. 1920, the neck having been long associated with risk and vulnerability, as in e...

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Stick one’s nose in

To interfere needlessly into someone else’s affairs or business, dates from the mid-19th century.

Stick to one’s guns

A metaphor for adhering to one’s beliefs or convictions and not wavering, dates in this sense from the mid-19th century but long before this it was ob...

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Stick to the knitting

Stick to the knitting is an American business adage that means concentrate on one’s core business or on what one knows best and is first cited in this...

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Stick, as applied figuratively to people

see Good stick


Sticks is early 20th century slang c.1905 for trees. Hence, out in the sticks has come to signify a remote rural area, presumably with a preponderance...

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Sticky wicket

To bat on a wet, sticky wicket in cricket meant disaster for the batting side and dates from the late 19th century. Since the 1930s, the expression ha...

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