A-Z Database

A-Z Database

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This is one of the oldest expressions in the language and now means without cost or penalty. It has nothing to do with Scottish frugalness or indeed w...

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Both these words signify a native of Liverpool and date from the late 19th century. The origin is obscure but the most commonly suggested etymology is...

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Go away, be off, US slang dates from the early 20th century, thought to be an abbreviation of scramble.

Scraping the bottom of the barrel

For centuries, the bottom of the barrel meant the dregs or the very worst of whatever had been stored in the barrel, ale, wine, food etc. The expressi...

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A scratch player, particularly in golf, denotes one so highly accomplished that he or she plays with no advantage or handicap. This usage dates from t...

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Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours

A familiar metaphor that expresses the mutual benefits derived from doing reciprocal favours for people. It is first cited from the early 1700s but it...

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Scream blue murder

To scream blue murder is to make a vocal, noisy or an extravagant protest about something or other and dates from the early 19th century. The word blu...

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Screw is slang for copulate and dates from the late 18th century and, from about the same time, also meant a prostitute, hence ‘screw you’ is often us...

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Screw loose

see Have a screw loose

Screw up

Slang for a mess-up or mistake, often used as a euphemism for a fuck up, dates from the 19th century from the same slang root as screw meaning to copu...

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Screw up one’s courage

To tighten up one’s courage as one would a screw, the metaphor was coined by Shakespeare in Macbeth (1605) Act I, Scene VII, “But screw your courage t...

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An eccentric or mad person North American slang first cited from c. 1930 with connections to Have a screw loose, screwy etc.


see Out of the screws


Slang adjective meaning absurd, eccentric or mad dates from the late 19th century. See also Have a screw loose


British slang dates from the late 19th century for the stealing of fresh produce like fruit, vegetables etc from private orchards and allotments.

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