Tag Archives: law

long (or strong) arm

    MEANING   far-reaching power or influence     ORIGIN   The earlier expression long hands was originally after classical Latin an nescis longas regibus esse manus?, used by the Roman poet Ovid (43 BC – circa 17 AD) in the epistolary poems Epistulæ Heroidum, (Letters of Heroines). While her husband, King Menelaus, is away, Helen […]

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porridge

    MEANING   a dish consisting of oatmeal or another meal or cereal boiled in water or milk     ORIGIN   The noun porridge is an alteration of pottage and had originally the same meaning: a thick soup made by stewing vegetables, herbs or meat, often thickened with barley, pulses, etc. The change […]

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auto-da-fé

auto-da-fé

  Auto de fe (1853), by Eugenio Lucas Velázquez (1817-70)       This noun is from the obsolete Portuguese form auto da fé (now auto de fé), literally meaning act of faith, composed, after Spanish auto de fe, of the noun auto, meaning public ceremony, judicial decree, writ, the preposition da, of the, and the […]

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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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jeopardy

jeopardy

  Jeopardy. This word is supposed to be derived from ‘j’ai perdu’, or ‘jeu perdu’. Skinner and Junius. Hazard; danger; Peril. A word not now in use. A Dictionary of the English Language (1785 edition), by Samuel Johnson (1709-84) There are two errors: the noun jeopardy is not from French j’ai perdu (I have lost) or jeu perdu […]

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loveday

loveday

  from Confessio amantis (The Lover’s Confession – around 1393), by John Gower (died 1408) – image: Luminarium: Anthology of English literature       A loveday is a day devoted to love. In Greenes mourning garment giuen him by repentance at the funerals of loue, which he presentes for a fauour to all young […]

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bankrupt

bankrupt

  Siena: Allegory of Bad Government (1338-39), by Ambrogio Lorenzetti (circa 1290-1348)       The noun bankrupt is from Italian bancarotta, attested since the 15th century, and its French adaptation banqueroute, first recorded in 1466. The English word is first attested in the plural form bancke rouptes in The Apology of Sir Thomas More, Knight […]

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infantry

infantry

  La infanta doña Margarita de Austria (Infanta Margarita Teresa in a Pink Dress (circa 1665) by Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo (circa 1612-67)       The noun infantry is, via French infanterie, from Italian infanteria, foot-soldiery. This Italian noun is from infante, a youth, a servant, a foot-soldier. The sense development of Italian infante […]

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mayhem

  The word maim appeared in the early 14th century. As a verb, it originally meant to cause bodily hurt or disfigurement to, and subsequently to mutilate, to cripple. As a noun, it meant a lasting bodily injury, and subsequently a mutilating wound. The noun maim is from Anglo-Norman and Old French forms such as […]

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