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tycoon

    MEANING   a wealthy, powerful person in business or industry     ORIGIN   This word is from Japanese taikun, itself from Chinese ta, great, and chün, ruler. Tycoon was originally the title by which the shogun of Japan was described to foreigners from the mid-19th century to the end of the Tokugawa […]

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‘Wasp’

    MEANING   (often used with mild derision): a person who belongs to, or is thought of, as being part of a white, upper middle-class, northern European, Protestant group that dominates economic, political and cultural activity in the USA       ORIGIN   This acronym from white Anglo-Saxon Protestant is first recorded in […]

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comrade

comrade

        In Spanish, from the noun cámara (from Latin camera), meaning a chamber, a room, was derived the collective feminine noun camarada, a military term attested in the mid-16th century in the sense of chambered or cabined (company). (The French feminine noun chambrée, from chambre, room, has the same meaning.) In Spanish, […]

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a stiff upper lip

a stiff upper lip

  first edition cover of Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves (1963), by the English author P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) – image: Goldsboro Books     MEANING   a quality of uncomplaining stoicism     ORIGIN   The word lip occurs in phrases referring to certain actions regarded as indicative of particular states of feeling. For example, […]

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terrorist

terrorist

  Robespierre, after guillotining France, its government and its inhabitants, guillotines Sanson [= the executioner].      original text: Robespierre, après avoir guillotiné la France, son gouvernement et ses habitants, guillotine Sanson. (18th-century caricature, from La Guillotine en 1793 (1908), by Hector Fleischmann – image: Wikimedia Commons)       By a curious twist of […]

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Fabian

Fabian

   the first Fabian pamphlet (1884)       Founded in 1884, the Fabian Society is a British organisation of socialists aiming to achieve socialism by gradual rather than revolutionary means. It derives its name from the Roman general and statesman Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus (died 203 BC), known as Fabius Cunctator. After Hannibal’s defeat […]

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to tot

to tot

  To tot was a legal term meaning to mark an item in the sheriff’s list with the word tot or the letter T, showing that the amount had been levied, and was to be accounted for, by him. This verb is first recorded in 1368 in a public statute written in French: Par la […]

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diktat

diktat

  The signing of peace in the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles, 28th June 1919 Sir William Orpen (1878 -1931)       MEANING   an order or decree imposed by someone in power without popular consent     ORIGIN   This noun is from German Diktat, meaning dictation and compulsion, command. It is from Latin […]

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‘pleb’

‘pleb’

  MEANING   informal and derogatory: an ordinary person, especially one from the lower social classes     ORIGIN   The noun pleb, which appeared in the late 18th century, is a shortened form of plebeian. The plural plebs, meaning the common people, dates back to the late 16th century. It is from Latin plebs/plebis, […]

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cabal

cabal

  Charles II (circa 1653) by Philippe de Champaigne       MEANINGS a secret or exclusive set of people a small group of intriguers, especially one formed for political purposes a secret plot, especially a political one     ORIGIN   The English word Kabbala, also spelt Kabbala, Cabbala, Cabala, or Qabalah, which dates […]

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