A-Z Database

A-Z Database

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When in Rome, do as the Romans do

Modify one’s behaviour and manners in accordance with local practice. This saying was coined by St Ambrose (c. 340-397 AD) when he wrote, “Si fueris R...

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When it comes to the crunch

see Crunch

When one door closes/shuts, another one opens

The earliest citation found for this is Fernando De Rojas (c.1465-1538) in La Celestina Act XV, “When one door closes, fortune will usually open anoth...

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When pigs fly

"When pigs fly or have wings is an expression or retort that means much the same thing as 'when hell freezes over.' In other words, it emphasises some...

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When push comes to shove

When push comes to shove means it is time for more force or commitment to resolve a situation, and is first recorded in America from the late 19th cen...

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When the chips are down

When the chips are down signifies the critical moment of truth in any situation or endeavour. It is originally an American expression dating from the...

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When the cows come home

This is a very old English metaphor for a long, indefinite period of time, deriving from the long, slow time that it takes cows to return from the fie...

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When the penny drops

see Penny drops

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

This proverb means there is always a way of achieving something if the desire and determination are strong enough. This proverb is first encountered i...

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Where there’s muck there’s brass

This proverb is strongly associated with Yorkshire, but only because it is usually delivered in a stagey Yorkshire accent. It means of course that the...

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Where there’s smoke there’s fire

see No smoke without fire

Whet one’s appetite

To whet one’s appetite means to stimulate one’s sense of anticipation, especially for food, and dates from the late 1600s. Whet, of course, means to s...

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see Wimp

Whip into shape

see Lick into shape


Contrary to popular belief this is originally a British expression from the late 1600s that gained popularity in America. A whippersnapper, now mainly...

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