This tag is for questions related to definitions and nuances of meaning of a word or phrase.

learn more… | top users | synonyms (6)

7
votes
1answer
248k views

XOXO means “hugs and kisses” but why?

What's the reasoning behind abbreviating hugs and kisses as X's and O's? Some say X is for hugs and O is for kisses, and some say the other way around; but why X and O, and why are they doubled?
8
votes
9answers
47k views

What exactly does it mean to “mug somebody off” in British English?

I tried looking this up at the Urban Dictionary, but it gave only one net-upvoted definition, and that definition wasn't even clear. The background for my question is coming my watching from a movie ...
1
vote
3answers
2k views

Usage of the word “game”

I often hear this word 'game'. One of the questions in the site talks about the meaning of "I am game". Users have replied that "I am game" implies that I am up for the challenge. But I would like ...
12
votes
2answers
10k views

“Semitic” and “anti-Semitic”

Why does Semitic refer to several groups of people, including Babylonians, Assyrians, Arabs and Jews, whereas anti-Semitic only refers to Jews?
14
votes
5answers
33k views

Origin of “jack sh*t”

Why do we say "Jack Shit" to mean "nothing at all"?
1
vote
1answer
1k views

Do “that” and “it” refer to different things in this sentence?

He likes going to the library to study. That always makes her happy. What if the last sentence were to be changed to It always makes her happy. Do these two sentences mean something ...
8
votes
4answers
111k views

What exactly does “fap” mean? [NSFW]

Sorry for the ridiculous question, but I can't understand the difference between fap and masturbation. Does fap mean the whole progress?
6
votes
4answers
28k views

What's the difference between a cathedral and a basilica?

The references I've seen so far have alternated primacy between one and the other.
3
votes
5answers
2k views

Is 'equivocate' a euphemism for 'lie' or can it not be about lying?

I can almost remember the first time I had ever heard/saw the word 'equivocate', probably in some junior-high vocabulary lesson. Like with many latinate neologisms, at first blush it sounds weak and ...
1
vote
8answers
3k views

What is a term for the “first” meaning of a word?

Words have lots of meanings/denotations/dictionary definitions, many connotations and contexts and they have literal meanings and metaphorical ones. For example, consider the word 'trash'. Literally ...
5
votes
1answer
1k views

What does “you'll be in your whack” mean?

Another colorful expression from that British movie I mentioned earlier. The context of the quote here is that there are these guys trying to smuggle ecstasy pills, and there's another guy hosting ...
10
votes
4answers
5k views

What does “on a hiding to nothing” mean?

I watched a movie with English actors just the other day and came across this phrase in the dialogue. What does it mean, and who would typically use it? EDIT: What is the sense of the hide in ...
3
votes
4answers
2k views

What qualifies as a “boat” or an “automobile”?

Are all crafts that travel on water considered "boats," even barges, yachts, canoes, rafts, etc? Are all motor vehicles considered "automobiles," even trucks, semis, and motorcycles?
2
votes
3answers
356 views

“action is told rather than given” - what does it mean?

Reading this amazon.co.uk book review... The writing style itself isn't bad but overall, the story is flat and the action is often told rather than given. "...told rather than given" - I ...
10
votes
1answer
4k views

Expressions in Tim Minchin's “Storm”

Can you help me with these expressions from Tim Minchin's Storm? There will be some obscenities—sorry for those; I am just interested in their meaning. "I confess a pigeonhole starts to form" [1:10] ...
6
votes
4answers
2k views

What exactly does “President Obama will ‘fold faster than a lawn chair’” mean?

In today’s Washington Post’s “Today’s Quote,” picked up from the comment of Former Reagan Budget director David Stockman in an interview with The Daily Beast (hat tip to Political Wire), I came across ...
7
votes
5answers
44k views

What does “going blue” mean?

I'm familiar with the expression to feel blue, but I recently stumbled upon the expression to go blue on two different websites in one week. Vork from The Guild goes a bit blue Source: http://...
3
votes
4answers
1k views

Can “…” mean the same thing as a semicolon?

Can a semicolon be replaced with "..." (an ellipsis) in a sentence? Is there any difference at all?
1
vote
3answers
9k views

Is it correct to say “I fancy your photos”?

Is it correct to say "I fancy your photos"? If yes, what would that phrase mean? How different would the meaning be from "I like your photos"? In what context would "I fancy your photos" sound natural?...
44
votes
9answers
112k views

What is the correct usage of “myriad”?

The vast majority of the time when I see the word "myriad" it is in a sentence like "He had a myriad of things." However I don't like the extraneous words so I normally use it like "He had myriad ...
20
votes
2answers
4k views

Why did Old Testament scholars choose to employ “to know” in a sexual sense?

For those of us not familiar, the verb to know once had an archaic sexual sense, often found in the Old Testament, and as illustrated in the following story found in Genesis 19: 4 But before they ...
5
votes
3answers
12k views

Are 'consecutively' and 'successively' the same? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What's the difference between “successive” and “consecutive”? Are 'consecutively' and 'successively' the same? Can they be used in place of each ...
7
votes
5answers
15k views

Difference between 'hallucination' and 'illusion'

The following quote is found on The Basics of Philosophy page: Representationalists argue their case from the "epistemological fact" that it is impossible to have experience beyond the sensory ...
1
vote
4answers
607 views

What's the meaning of 'a court of'?

A formal written or spoken statement, esp. one given in a court of law
4
votes
2answers
777 views

What's the meaning of “learned a thing or twelve”?

And in those 10 years I can say that I may have learned a thing or twelve. What's the meaning of "learned a thing or twelve"? Is it an idiom?
9
votes
1answer
11k views

What is a finite verb?

What's a finite verb? It's not just the opposite of an infinitive, is it? Can I get some examples?
0
votes
5answers
563 views

Is saying “someone who is in trouble and who can’t be talked out of it” a quite natural expression?

I found the expression in a story about a 24-year-old pilot who landed his plane on a beach and who "'could not be talked out of it' when he was in trouble." It was in today’s New York Times, in an ...
12
votes
5answers
10k views

Difference between “garbage” and “trash”?

What's the difference between garbage and trash? Is the difference significant?
13
votes
4answers
13k views

What does “Google-fu” mean? [duplicate]

Exact Duplicate: Can anyone tell me what the suffix “-fu” stands for in the following sentence? I was reading developer article on searching MSDN network when I find sentence talks ...
11
votes
5answers
73k views

Is being “low on the totem pole” good or bad?

The background for this question is that I'm watching the latest episode of NCIS, and in this episode it is mentioned that the term "Low on the totem pole" actually is a good thing, reserved for the ...
2
votes
5answers
325 views

What is the difference between “chasing” or “catching”?

What is the difference between "The police are catching the thief" and "The police are chasing the thief"?
4
votes
3answers
18k views

What does the term 'divers places' mean?

In the King James Bible, Matthew 24:7 states: For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers ...
1
vote
3answers
413 views

What's the meaning of “Acme developers for IPhone”?

I have recently heard the term "Acme developer of IPhone." I was just wondering what it stands for? I think I know the meaning: Is it when a developer goes to a client and presents his/her ideas for ...
7
votes
3answers
3k views

What does “like kicking a puppy” mean?

"I think we just don't care that much [about Microsoft] anymore," Zemlin said. "They used to be our big rival, but now it's kind of like kicking a puppy." I'm just curious, how to correctly ...
5
votes
3answers
496 views

What is the difference (in terms of usage and connotation) between “loath” and “loathe”?

I'm having difficulty in understanding the differences in usage (and understanding which one is used from pronunciation/context) between "loathe" and "loath" - could anyone help clarify it ?
4
votes
3answers
18k views

What is meant by “sth”?

I came across this line in a site: Can u make sth effective for a sports betting related product? I can't understand what is meant by sth effective here. I tried to google it but was unable to ...
6
votes
7answers
83k views

Is there a difference between “vice”, “deputy”, “associate”, and “assistant” as descriptive job titles?

When vice, deputy, associate, or assistant is collocated with a job title, such as vice manager, deputy manager, associate manager, assistant manager, I wonder how to rank or differentiate their ...
4
votes
6answers
6k views

In what contexts would one use the slang word “minging” in British English?

I was watching a Youtube video on English accents, and in the middle of a Yorkshire one, I think, the author of the video used the word "minging", in what seemed to be an insult. So I have two ...
4
votes
2answers
73k views

What do first, second, and third person perspective mean? Why are they so called?

I am aware of the terms first person, second person and third person from grammar, but I have also seen them used in other contexts, in particular first person perspective with regard to video games. ...
9
votes
3answers
4k views

Does “hieroglyph” only refer to the ancient Egyption form of writing or to any writing system whose basic elements represent words?

If somebody refers to Chinese or Japanese characters as hieroglyphs are they right or wrong? Aren't there many hieroglyphic writing systems? If somebody says hieroglyph refers only to Ancient Egyptian ...
5
votes
9answers
8k views

Is “New and Improved” an oxymoron?

It irritates me that advertisers often claim a product is "New and Improved". Surely, if something is new (ie, has not existed previously), it can't be improved! And vice versa!
5
votes
3answers
1k views

“If it hadn’t been for the rock, the ship wouldn’t have gone aground”

If it hadn’t been for the rock, the ship wouldn’t have gone aground. What does this idiom mean, exactly? From The Economist.
1
vote
2answers
458 views

“fail to convey it”

Does "I fail to convey it" mean "I know but I don't explain it" or does it mean "I know and I try to explain it, but not well enough for people to understand it" or can it mean both? What's another ...
25
votes
7answers
91k views

“Insecure” or “unsecure” when dealing with security?

Which is the appropriate word to be used in the sentence: The system we were testing was determined to be insecure/unsecure. The usage is in the context of security, specifically a lack thereof....
4
votes
7answers
3k views

“convey” vs. “say”

It's easier than it seems, but I don't convey it well. My friend says that I should change that to read It's easier than it seems, but I don't say it well. However, this doesn't seem quite ...
3
votes
1answer
38k views

What do “a.m.” and “p.m.” stand for when talking about time? [closed]

What do a.m. and p.m. stand for when talking about time?
4
votes
4answers
3k views

“Would” with a present meaning—is this correct?

A great example I can think of: "Please, leave! I would be alone!" With would meaning something like, "I want to be alone." Is this correct, or not? EDIT: To further clarify, I am not aiming ...
0
votes
1answer
848 views

“Center” or “centre” in sports vocabulary? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Similar words that change from “-ter” to “tre” I am researching some stuff about football (soccer), and I came across the words center and centre, ...
12
votes
6answers
53k views

What does the phrase “Fee-fi-fo-fum” actually mean?

Fee-fi-fo-fum; I smell the blood of an Englishman. Be he alive or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread. Joseph Jacobs, Jack and the Beanstalk (1890) I've read about ...