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According to the OED, tout court means in short, in little, simply, without qualification or addition.

But tout itself means to peep, peer, look out; to gaze.

So my question is how can “peep court” mean “in short”?

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Tout means all as in tout le monde. I'm not sure where you're getting the definition of peep from ... You can also try asking in french.stackexchange as it's basically a French expression. –  coleopterist Oct 7 '12 at 9:32
    
@coleopterist I have found that tout means peep in Oxford Dictionary . –  Popopo Oct 7 '12 at 9:35
    
Any OED definition will explicitly cite the French origin of the word. How did you miss that? –  itsbruce Oct 7 '12 at 10:38
    
@itsbruce Because I'm not quite familiar to French. –  Popopo Oct 7 '12 at 14:07
    
You don't have to be; it's an English dictionary. That is, it explains in English that the phrase is French. If you had read the dictionary entry properly, you wouldn't have needed to ask here. –  itsbruce Oct 7 '12 at 14:11
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closed as general reference by Carlo_R., FumbleFingers, Cameron, Matt Эллен, Daniel Oct 8 '12 at 18:07

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The entire phrase is French. As an adjective, tout means “all” In French, but as an adverb as it is here, tout means “quite”. It’s modifying the adjective court, which means “short”. The longer OED entry for the adverbial sense reads in part:

ǁǁ tout /tu/, adv., sb.4, and a.

Etymology: Fr.

A. adv. Quite, entirely: tout au contraire /tut o kɔ̃trɛr/, quite the contrary; tout court /tu kur/, in short, in little, simply, without qualification or addition; tout de suite /tu də sɥit/ de suite in sequence, at once, immediately; cf. toot sweet; tout seul /tu sœl/, quite alone, on its (or his, etc.) own; tout simple, simplement /tu sɛ̃pl/, /sɛ̃pləmɑ̃/ quite simply, just that. /tu/, adv., sb.4, and a.

By the way, the OED has seven completely different entries for the word tout; in other words, it has seven different tout words. Your “peep” definition just doesn’t apply to this one.

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Okay, you're right, but why a French phrase appears in an English Dictionary? –  Popopo Oct 7 '12 at 9:39
    
Because it's sometimes used in an English context, as are several foreign expressions. –  Barrie England Oct 7 '12 at 9:40
    
@Popopo This happens all the time. You will also find words like vis-à-vis, façade, fiancée, and naïve in an English dictionary, because people use them in English. –  tchrist Oct 7 '12 at 9:41
    
OK, I see. Thank you. –  Popopo Oct 7 '12 at 9:46
    
@Popopo there is "dance macabre" or "macabre dance" too. –  user19148 Oct 7 '12 at 9:55
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With the meanings the OED gives it in its separate entry, tout is an English verb, rhyming with 'spout'. In the expression tout court it's a French adjective, rhyming, in an English pronunciation, with 'you'.

EDIT: A French adverb, not adjective.

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Yes, quite right. Now changed. –  Barrie England Oct 7 '12 at 14:44
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