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

learn more… | top users | synonyms (6)

25
votes
7answers
199k views

What is the meaning and origin of the common phrase “the world is your oyster”?

What does the world is your oyster mean, and where does it come from?
2
votes
1answer
70k views

What do the idioms “hang up”, “hang on”, and “hang out” mean?

What do hang up, hang on, and hang out mean?
17
votes
4answers
25k views

In a tournament, do I get a “by”, a “bye”, or a “buy”? [closed]

If there are an odd number of competitors at any stage of a single-elimination tournament, one player is excused from play and continues on as if he had defeated his (nonexistent) opponent. This is ...
1
vote
1answer
2k views

What does 'In and out of time' mean?

I've encountered the phrase I can feel your heart beat in and out of time in the song Call To Arms, Angels And Airwaves and can't figure out what it means. Does it mean that the heart beat is ...
5
votes
2answers
617 views

What are “a” and “certain” adding in meaning to the phrase “a certain Mr. Ripley”?

Consider the following sentences: I had my identity stolen by Mr. Ripley. and I had my identity stolen by a Mr. Ripley. and I had my identity stolen by a certain Mr. Ripley. In what ...
2
votes
2answers
877 views

On the meaning of the verb “assert”

According to dictionaries, "assert" means "to state categorically". Longman Dictinary of Contemporary English says: (1) to state firmly that something is true (2) assert your rights/...
12
votes
3answers
6k views

What does the “right” in the “The Right Honourable” mean? Why is it there?

I don't think the right in the "The Right Honourable" means "correct", because I can't see how that makes sense in context. I considered right as a British slang intensifier that means "really", but ...
2
votes
2answers
1k views

Is the past tense correct in “Did you know Fred was a doctor?” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicates: He didn't know where New Jersey was… Tense change: previous actions on something that's currently true My wife and I were disagreeing about this today: ...
4
votes
2answers
793 views

Is “We embraced.” a complete sentence?

Can someone write "we embraced" to mean "we embraced each other?"
6
votes
2answers
11k views

What is the definition and origin of “imba”?

I often hear the phrase, "That is imba" in the video gaming community. It seems to refer to something powerful or unskillful: Hunters are so imba. Grenade launchers are imba! But I have ...
0
votes
7answers
16k views

How do you interpret “Who are you?”

This might be kind of vague, but I was thinking about this the other day. When someone asks "Who are you?", what are they really wanting to know? Is your name really enough to explain who you are? ...
15
votes
3answers
9k views

If someone says “Do not pass go” to you, what do they mean?

I have seen this phrase do not pass go a couple of times reading Internet forums, but I don't remember figuring it out in context, as I've never played the game Monopoly. What does it mean?
8
votes
3answers
105k views

Difference between “intern” and “trainee”

I am filling out a form in order to get a J-1 visa to the US. One question is to say if I'll be an intern or a trainee (among others). Yes, I could ask the guys that made the form, but my question ...
6
votes
6answers
8k views

Does the phrase “pull the chain” have some sort of significance in jails and prisons?

My question comes apropos a comment on an old question's of RegDwight's, "jail" vs. "prison". After many answers established that there was indeed a difference in usage between the two terms, JohnFx ...
2
votes
3answers
313 views

Some actor's lines from film 'Insomnia'

You do everything around here? Yes. I'm going to cut the deal. Why isn't the phrase just "you do everything here"? I know cut and deal, but it doesn't seem not mean "cut the deal" or "cancel ...
4
votes
3answers
4k views

Are there any pairs of words like “beloved”/“belovèd”, “learned”/“learnèd” that maintain a semantic difference to the present day?

When I first read Romeo and Juliet in high school, I remember being intrigued by pairs of words such as, beloved/belovèd and learned/learnèd where there's an accent grave on the 'e' of ...
3
votes
3answers
797 views

Can someone help me understand this quote about love?

Ah! a blessing beyond all fate; My sole mate 'tis my soul mate. I didn't get this quote. Let me know its meaning please.
6
votes
4answers
620 views

Which meaning of “to conceive” came first?

"To conceive" has two primary meanings to give birth to originate (an idea) Either one could be a metaphor for the other. MW just gave the etymology of the Latin parts without giving a history (...
2
votes
5answers
18k views

What's the difference between “colloquium”, “seminar”, and possibly other such words?

I was wondering what the differences are between colloquium seminar and some other possibly interchangeable words you might think off top of your head ... I get such notifications regularly from ...
0
votes
2answers
4k views

Meaning of “you don't need no memory” and its grammar or rhetoric [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: “We don't need no education” You don't need no memory. Just don't know what it means.
5
votes
3answers
180 views

What did Petrucci mean by the book title 'Wild Stringdom'?

His book name is "Wild Stringdom", I don't understand... — what is it? I'm from Russia and I speak English very bad. I want to translate this book for me into Russian.
6
votes
2answers
13k views

What's the difference between “neural” and “neuronal”?

Is it that something that is neuronal has to do with neurons, while something that is neural has to do with nerves or the nervous system? Is something that is neuronal necessarily neural? Or does it ...
2
votes
8answers
7k views

Does “all in” mean… “tired”?

When I used to play video games, "all in" meant that you were devoting your army to a "do or die" effort. In other words, you were either going to win or lose in the next battle. The "all in" meant ...
2
votes
2answers
4k views

Is it better to be “hung like a pike” or “hung like a stickleback”?

More from the British movie The Football Factory. The background is that the main character and his best friend have picked up these two girls at a bar; things proceed swimmingly, and the two head ...
-1
votes
1answer
1k views

What does “blanding” mean?

What does blanding mean in any culture or language?
9
votes
6answers
79k views

What does “to take someone at face value” mean?

What does this mean? I hear it often, but not sure what its meaning is. I think it means to believe what they are saying without proof.
4
votes
3answers
4k views

“…must have taken ‘after’ his daddy.”

I read this phrase: My son cracks me up. He's had me laughing all day long. Must have taken after his daddy. I want to know what after means in this construction, and if there is some formal ...
10
votes
7answers
40k views

Why do they say “love fifteen,” in tennis?

Why do they say "love fifteen," in tennis?
1
vote
4answers
969 views

Meaning of “Ship in volume”

From the following sentence: Weintraub says that the distortions began with Jobs' first bullet points, in which a slide claims that the iPad 2 is the "First dual core tablet to ship in volume." ...
14
votes
7answers
12k views

How do you get from the literal meaning of “all bets are off” to the idiom?

Most everyone knows what the common turn of phrase all bets are off means: "anything can happen." But all idioms have to start from somewhere, and the question I'm wondering is how did this one start. ...
1
vote
3answers
10k views

What's the meaning of “on notice” and “under advisement”?

Can someone please give a clear definition and distinction of these terms, as when a public figure is asked a difficult question and says: "I'll take that on notice" or "I'll take that under ...
6
votes
3answers
4k views

Please teach me how to use ‘hot diggity’, and the meaning of ‘corkscrew twists’

Theater reviews of newspapers are one of very valuable sources for me to fish for novel and intriguing expressions to foreign English learner like me. Recently, I found two words quite strange to me ...
3
votes
3answers
3k views

use of the interjection “but lo' …”

In an article I tried to understand (the german understanding) of: (...) we’re outside the part of C where the standard Dirichlet series actually converges. But lo’ we can ask what’s the ...
3
votes
1answer
204 views

What is the meaning of “transparent contempt”?

I came across this phrase "transparent contempt" a couple of times, but was unable to get the meaning from the context. I am not able to track down the source.
2
votes
2answers
3k views

How can I interpret the meaning of “narrative” in different situations?

According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, the meaning of "narrative" is defined as: A description of events, especially in a novel. The act, process or skill of telling a story. ...
7
votes
1answer
251k 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
48k 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
34k 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
113k 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
29k 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
357 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] ...