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panther

panther

  Bija, a two-year-old female black leopard – Picture: Barry Bland/Barcroft Media       MEANING   a leopard, especially a black one     ORIGIN   Via Latin panthera and Anglo-Norman and Old French forms derived from Latin such as panthere and pantere (Modern French panthère), the English noun panther is from ancient Greek […]

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eggcorn

eggcorn

  photograph: Launceston Parish Wildlife Project       MEANING   An eggcorn is a word or phrase that results from a mishearing or misinterpretation of another, an element of the original being substituted for one which sounds very similar, as in to tow the line instead of to toe the line.     ORIGIN […]

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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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companion

companion

  photograph: David Levene for the Guardian       In the sense of a person one chooses to socialise or associate with, this noun dates back to the early 14th century. It is from Anglo-Norman and Old and Middle French forms such as compaignun and compaignon (Modern French compagnon), derived from Late Latin companio/companion-, attested […]

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hackneyed – hack

      MEANINGS   – hackneyed, adjective: (of phrases, fashions, etc.) used so often as to be trite, dull and stereotyped – hack, noun: a writer or journalist producing dull, unoriginal work     ORIGIN   The noun hackney, which is first recorded in the late 13th century, originally denoted a horse of middle […]

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hackney carriage

hackney carriage

  an ambling horse miniature from a 13th-century Apocalypse manuscript: The 3rd seal, the black horse       MEANING   (British): the official term for a taxi     ORIGIN   The common noun hackney was originally elliptical for Hackney horse, a horse of Hackney, a town in Middlesex where horses were pastured. (It is […]

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umpire

umpire

  Sir Thomas Parkyns of Bunny (1713) image: National Portrait Gallery       MEANINGS   – in some sports: an official to whose decision all doubtful points are referred, and who sees that the rules are not broken – a person who arbitrates between contesting parties     ORIGIN   The Old and Middle […]

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Shrove Tuesday – le Mardi gras

Shrove Tuesday – le Mardi gras

  le carnaval de la mi-carême, Nantes (France) – photograph: MaxPPP/France-Soir         Shrovetide is the period comprising Quinquagesima Sunday, or Shrove Sunday, and the two following days, Shrove Monday and Shrove Tuesday. It immediately precedes Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. (Quinquagesima is short for ecclesiastical Latin quinquagesima dies, fiftieth day, because, […]

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fletcher

fletcher

  The Mutineers turning LIEUᵀ BLIGH and part of the OFFICERS and CREW adrift from His MAJESTY’s Ship the Bounty, by Robert Dodd (1748-1815)       The noun fletcher denotes a person who makes and sells arrows. It also formerly designated an archer. It is from Old French flechier, flecher, of same meanings, derived […]

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surly

    MEANING   bad-tempered and unfriendly     ORIGIN   This word was originally a variant of the obsolete and rare adjective sirly, composed of the noun sir and the suffix -ly, and meaning sir-like, lordly, hence haughty, imperious (it is similar to German herrisch, imperious, from Herr, lord, sir). The word sirly is first recorded, used […]

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