A-Z Database

A-Z Database

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Wide of the mark

Irrelevant or off the subject dates from the 15th century and makes use of one of the many meanings of mark, in this particular instance, a target or...

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Wide or wild blue yonder

In both formats, these American expressions refer to the open sea or sky, in the sense of far and indeterminate distances. They derive from the openin...

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Widow’s peak

A widow’s peak is the distinct, V-shaped hairline at the top centre of the forehead. These days it is a unisex term but this was not always the case....

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Widow’s weeds

Weeds in this sense is simply a very old word for clothing and derives from the Old English wæd, meaning garment or clothing, and which dates back to...

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Wild oats

see Sow wild oats

Wild-goose chase

A wild-goose chase is a figurative expression for an unproductive, pointless or hopeless quest. Its origin dates back to the late 1500s when it descri...

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see Like wildfire

Will o’ the wisp

Will o’ the wisp is the folkloric name given to the natural phenomenon of marsh gas that sometimes ignites on contact with oxygen. It was known to the...

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This very old expression has two different but related meanings. The first meaning is ‘with or against one’s will’ and the second is ‘in an unplanned...

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American expression for a weak, ineffectual, timid person dates from the 1970s, origin unknown, perhaps an abbreviation of whimper - the sound such a...

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Win by a street

see Streets ahead

Win friends and influence people

see How to win friends and influence people

Win hands down

see Hands down

Win one’s spurs

To win one’s spurs is to pass the test, to be elevated in position or rank and dates in this sense from the 1600s. It derives from the literal award o...

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Win, lose or draw

This is originally an American expression that has come to mean ‘whatever the outcome’, for the simple reason that in any pursuit or course of action,...

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