meaning and origin of ‘forty winks’

early 19th century—probably a jocular application of ‘forty’ as an indefinite term for a large number—‘wink’ in the sense of ‘a closing of the eyes for sleep’

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meaning and origin of ‘Mrs Grundy’

from Speed the Plough (1798), by Thomas Morton; Dame Ashfield is constantly fearing to give occasion for the sneers of Mrs Grundy, her unseen neighbour

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the origin of ‘bully’?

noun (late 17th cent.), perhaps from ‘bull’ (= bovine)—possibly distinct from ‘bully’ (mid-16th cent.), ‘darling’, probably from Middle Dutch ‘boele’, ‘lover’

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‘to don’ – ‘to doff’

coalesced forms of the obsolete phrasal verbs ‘to do on’ and ‘to do off’, meaning respectively ‘to put on’ and ‘to take off’ (an item of clothing)

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origin of ‘ado’

from ‘at do’ (meaning ‘to do’)—construction ‘to have’ + pronominal object (e.g. ‘much’) + ‘at do’ led to ‘ado’ reinterpreted as a noun qualified by an adjective

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origin of ‘a little bird told me’

1711 in a letter by Jonathan Swift—perhaps from Ecclesiastes, 10:20: “a bird of the air shall carry the voice; and that which hath wings, shall tell the matter”

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