Tag Archives: Shakespeare

bully

    MEANING   a person who hurts, persecutes or intimidates weaker people     ORIGIN   One noun bully was a term of endearment and familiarity originally applied to either sex. It is first recorded in A comedy concernynge thre lawes, of nature Moses, & Christ, corrupted by the sodomytes. Pharysees and Papystes (1548?), […]

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Mrs Grundy

    MEANING   an imaginary personage who is proverbially referred to as a personification of the tyranny of social opinion in matters of conventional propriety     ORIGIN   Mrs Grundy is an unseen character in Speed the Plough, a comedy first performed in 1798, written by the English playwright Thomas Morton (1764-1838). In […]

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costermonger

    MEANING   a person who sells goods, especially fruit and vegetables, from a barrow     ORIGIN   A costermonger was originally an apple-seller, a fruiterer. The word is composed of costard, meaning a kind of apple of large size, and monger, denoting a dealer or trader in a specified commodity. The noun […]

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‘ado’

    MEANINGS   – ado: a state of agitation or fuss – without further, or more, ado: without further fuss or delay – much ado about nothing: a great deal of fuss or trouble over nothing of any significance     ORIGIN   The noun ado is from northern Middle English at do, of Scandinavian […]

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this mortal coil

    MEANING   the troubles and activities of this mortal life     ORIGIN   In A Dictionary of the English Language (1755), the English lexicographer Samuel Johnson (1709-84) thus defined the noun coil: Tumult; turmoil; bustle; stir; hurry; confusion. This obsolete noun is probably from Old French acueil (Modern French accueil), meaning reception, encounter. […]

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blanket

    The noun blanket is from Old Northern French and Anglo-Norman forms such as blankete and blanket, composed of blanc, white, and the diminutive suffix -ette, and meaning white woollen material, blanket cloth, and blanket. (The Modern French word for blanket is couverture, meaning literally covering, from the verb couvrir, to cover. The term […]

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apple-john

    An apple-john is a kind of apple, called in French deux-années or deux-ans, because it will keep two years, and is considered to be in perfection when shrivelled and withered. The second element is after the name of St John, because the apple ripens around St John’s Day (24th June). In Huloets dictionarie […]

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Don’t spoil the ship for a ha’p’orth of tar.

    MEANING   Don’t risk the failure of a large project by trying to economise on trivial things.     ORIGIN   Ship is a dialectal pronunciation of sheep, and this proverb was originally to lose the sheep (often the hog) for a halfpennyworth of tar, that is to say, for want of spending […]

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to don – to doff

    MEANINGS   – to don: to put on (an item of clothing) – to doff: to remove (an item of clothing)     ORIGIN   The verb to don is a coalesced form of the obsolete phrasal verb to do on, meaning to put on (an item of clothing). For example, in the Coverdale […]

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willy-nilly

    MEANINGS   whether desired or not and haphazardly     ORIGIN   This adverb is a contraction of the idiomatic phrase based on end-rhyme will I, nill I (or will he, nill he, etc.), meaning be I willing, be I unwilling (or be he willing, be he unwilling, etc.). The obsolete verb to […]

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