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I'm often interested in the origins of English phrases, and I know that I can find answers by googling, and I can find good answers by asking here.

How can I find good answers myself? Are there any well-known, respected, and fairly comprehensive sources for origins of English expressions and idioms?

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closed as off-topic by Kristina Lopez, user49727, Brian Hooper, Christi, Hellion Nov 21 '13 at 14:06

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4 Answers 4

A handy source online is The Phrase Finder:

http://www.phrases.org.uk/

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I recommend Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable now at 16th edition.It is a bulky one -1326 pages

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+1 for the Amazon.com "Look Inside" link. –  Callithumpian Apr 29 '11 at 0:51

Some other good online resources:

Online Etymology Dictionary (often has phrases within entries for individual words)
World Wide Words (Michael Quinion's archive of well-researched articles)
Wordwizard (excellent discussion-based site with a focus on word and phrase origins)

and ditto to @Robusto's answer. . .(usually)

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Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable is a good start for many expressions. There are a couple of on-line versions; I've linked to the most searchable one I could find, but Google will show you others.

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@Bogdan: that sounds plausible. I'd certainly recommend getting a paper copy anyway. –  user1579 Apr 29 '11 at 0:06

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