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

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0
votes
2answers
18k views

What does “Knock on wood” mean?

From the dictionary, it looks like it's some kind of ritual one does for luck, but I still cannot figure out when one would really knock on wood.
7
votes
1answer
11k views

What's the difference between 'fowl' and 'poultry'?

As the title says, I'm interested in the semantic difference between these two words. OALD gives the definition of fowl as "a bird that is kept for its meat and eggs, for example a chicken." Poultry ...
0
votes
4answers
353 views

Name for words created from mispronunciations?

Is there a name for the process by which words are created out of mispronunciations of other words, or for the words themselves? Examples that come to mind include ain't for isn't and prolly for ...
3
votes
2answers
526 views

Difference between vex and annoy

I learnt a new verb today, namely, vex. I read a lot of example sentences with it, and looked up the definitions. It seems that vex is very similar to annoy. Are there any contexts where one is ...
-1
votes
1answer
239 views

What does “therf werre eyght bokes” mean?

I've been told that the following phrase is valid English, although Google Translate marks each of the words as wrong. Therf werre eyght bokes. What does this phrase mean in common English?
5
votes
2answers
3k views

Nonplussed defines its own antonym?

I recently encountered this word while reading an article and found that its two basic definitions are "Bewildered" and "Unfazed." How can the word mean both these things as they seem to be direct ...
14
votes
1answer
48k views

“Queueing” or “Queuing”

Which spelling is better, queueing or queuing? Both words seem to mean the same (or am I wrong?), but there are two different spellings. My context is: Queueing Latency vs. Queuing Latency ...
0
votes
2answers
1k views

Why is a lieutenant general higher than a major general? [closed]

Since in the military ranks, lieutenant is lower than a major. Why is it that in the rankings of generals......major general is lower than a lieutenant general?
2
votes
2answers
149 views

Unions' Assassins' Guild or Union's Assassins' Guild?

Is it Unions' Assassins' Guild or Union's Assassins' Guild? If my English serves me, I think both are right but have slightly different meanings. Can someone shed some light?
5
votes
2answers
1k views

Etymology of “research”?

Triggered by an interesting but speculative and open-ended discussion in a scientific blog article, I want to ask what the meaning of research is/was according to its etymological history. Maybe the ...
10
votes
2answers
38k views

“Covered with” vs. “covered in” vs. “covered by”

I want to find out the differences in meaning among covered by, covered in, and covered with. For example, what is the difference between: covered with blood covered in blood or the ...
2
votes
2answers
359 views

What does 'hypocrite' have to to with 'critic'?

I looked at the origins of hy·poc·ri·sy   1175–1225; Middle English ipocrisie < Old French < Late Latin hypocrisis < Greek hypókrisis play acting, equivalent to hypokrī́ ( nesthai ...
3
votes
2answers
4k views

What does it mean for something to be “inter-ethnic?”

Does inter-ethnic refer to things that are between different ethnic groups, or within one ethnic group? If it refers to things that are between different ethnic groups, what word would be used to ...
3
votes
1answer
159 views

Crenulator - What is the exact meaning?

I understand that after cremation, the remains are put through a crenulator to reduce them to ashes and to sift out metals. I assume it's a sort of shaker/sieve.
3
votes
3answers
46k views

“What about you?” versus “How about you?”

E.g. I'm going straight home after work. How about you? I'm going straight home after work. What about you? They both seem to work interchangeably, but there feels like a subtle ...
2
votes
3answers
1k views

Expression “let's cross that bridge a little further down the road”

I've heard the expression "let's cross that bridge a little further down the road" to convey something I understand a bit like: "let's take that difficult decision a bit later" or "let's take on that ...
2
votes
4answers
3k views

What does “slicker than snot on a doorknob” mean?

I have a friend from Mississippi and I've heard him use this expression sometimes: slicker than snot on a doorknob. What exactly does it mean? (I guess it's something positive but I'm not too sure ...
1
vote
2answers
545 views

Meaning of “exported from somewhere”

I don't quite understand how one should use the expression "exported from somewhere". What does it mean when an item is exported from a given place? So far I've always seen the verb export used like ...
6
votes
4answers
8k views

Why does the word “emcee” exist?

So I encountered the word "emcee" in written form for the first time this week and was surprised to find that it was not simply written "M.C." (short for Master of Ceremonies). Why does the "emcee" ...
1
vote
4answers
2k views

What is the meaning of “a roach in the rushes”?

In George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, I would have given a hundred silver stags to have been a roach in the rushes when he learned that Lord Beric was off to behead his brother. what does a ...
2
votes
1answer
173 views

If you cut a part in two (parts vs. pieces) [closed]

If you cut something in half, do you get two parts or two pieces? Do they convey different meanings? This is in the context of a mechanical part physically cut in two.
1
vote
1answer
412 views

Why do they call the counterpart “that woman” to press corps after parting from a female?

Further to my question I posted yesterday on the significance of the term “woman driver” used by Rush Limbaugh, I have another question: Limbaugh’s use of ‘woman driver’ in a derogatory context ...
2
votes
5answers
23k views

Word with the same meaning as “good moments” or “pleasant memories”?

Is there a single word with the same meaning as "good moments" or "pleasant memories"? I'm looking for a word which describes good thing(s) that happened to someone. The only word I can think of is ...
2
votes
2answers
248 views

manically laconic

Given that I know what "manically" and "laconic" are, I don't understand how the description "manically laconic" coincide with the sentence following it. "Dick came out personally to get us, out ...
0
votes
1answer
320 views

What does “showed why he is feared on” mean?

Sorena Ali Madadi showed why he is feared on the counterattack, breaking through in the middle and scoring for Princo after 35 minutes to make the score 4 - 0. What does it mean?
7
votes
5answers
3k views

Does the word 'gimmick' have positive or negative meaning?

Does the word gimmick have a positive or negative meaning? It is not obvious to me from a wikipedia article. I also would be glad if someone could explain it in two words, not several paragraphs ...
1
vote
1answer
2k views

So much is at stake

In this sentence: So much is at stake that courses in foreign languages are often inadequate training grounds, in and of themselves, for the successful learning of a second language. I have ...
5
votes
4answers
6k views

What is meant by the “benefit of the doubt”? [closed]

I think doubt is a negative emotion, so I find it difficult to know what is meant by "benefit of the doubt". How does this phrase work, and how did it arise?
7
votes
6answers
3k views

What does “stand to” mean in the sentence, “China’s Health Ministry stands to profit from the industry’s growth?”

I found the following sentence in an archive of the Financial Times articles dated August 29, 2007, which was titled “Chinese? Don’t get ill.” “The problems of the health system are tangled up in the ...
5
votes
3answers
24k views

“A number of students” vs. “the number of students” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: A number of questions “has been” or “have been” asked? From the grammatical view both are correct, but please explain the difference in meaning: ...
3
votes
1answer
1k views

Figurative meaning for “open a parenthesis”?

In this article one can find the following construct: ... To answer this question, it is ... necessary to open a parenthesis. ( And then the author goes into some details. But he does not ...
3
votes
2answers
927 views

What does “the thesis of this dissertation” mean?

The thesis of this dissertation is that managing and accessing the Structured Web poses unique difficulties which neither traditional database systems nor search engines address. This is from ...
3
votes
1answer
6k views

Answering: “What do you say?”

If used as a salutation, what does "What do you say?" mean? Is it a substitution for "how are you doing"? Perhaps some other question regarding my current state of mind? I really have no idea. ...
1
vote
2answers
3k views

What should be filled in “Honoring”, “Given by” and “R.S.V.P”

In the invitation letters, what should I fill in to the fields "Honoring", "Given by" and "R.S.V.P"?
2
votes
0answers
316 views

Difference between “fluid” and “liquid” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: “Fluids” versus “liquids”? What is the difference between fluid and liquid?
7
votes
4answers
622 views

What is the sense of the word “kettle” here?

I've just come across the word "kettle" in a news article used in a sense I've not heard it before. "Police have formed 'a kettle' at Millenium Bridge, according to some of the protesters. They ...
0
votes
0answers
56 views

Do you make a difference between “anybody” and “anyone” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Is there a subtle difference between “somebody” and “someone”, “anybody” and “anyone”? Not being an English native, I’m ...
-5
votes
1answer
786 views

Meaning of “famous last words” [closed]

As the developer is clever he knows that in his particular situation the exception will never be thrown, so he just inserts an empty catch block. He even puts a nice comment in the empty catch ...
4
votes
4answers
24k views

What's the usual meaning of “monkey business”?

"Monkey business" seems to be a widely used idiom. I looked it up on Wiktionary and I found two main possible meanings, one stressing the silliness of an activity: (US, slang) Wasting time, or ...
5
votes
2answers
190 views

What is a “terrace park”?

In an autobiographical book, the narrator, an American, tells about a period he spent in Kiev: The front door of my building opened onto the bustling but cozy street of Zhitomirskaya, and it was ...
0
votes
2answers
772 views

What does “higgledy-piggledy” mean? [closed]

What does "higgledy-piggledy" mean? Does higgledy and piggledy means anything separately? How to use these two words?
1
vote
1answer
250 views

What is “lights-out systems”?

What does "lights-out systems" mean in While agile might not be suitable for building safety-critical and lights-out systems, ...
0
votes
1answer
452 views

Statements that are courtesies

When you say the sentence: The two men exchanged courtesies before getting down to business. What are the examples of such a courtesies? May it be compliments (flattery)? Is it something ...
2
votes
3answers
3k views

Virtually is like almost or practically? [closed]

In the first definition of the word virtually there is written: almost [= practically]: Virtually all the children come to school by bus. He was virtually unknown before running for ...
2
votes
2answers
4k views

Charles Dickens' “for good and for evil” and “superlative degree of comparison”

Charles Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities" starts with the words: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of ...
0
votes
2answers
662 views

What meaning does the word “remaining” add to a sentence?

From a paragraph that I was reading about the inoculation theory had this sentence: Those receiving a one-sided message showed almost no remaining attitude change after they were exposed to ...
0
votes
1answer
2k views

What does “flush to the top” mean?

"Place your hand around the neck of the bottle, so that your hand is flush to the top". From WikiHow.
0
votes
3answers
3k views

What is the difference between experiment and experimentation?

If I am correct, both experiment and experimentation exist in English. Which one should I use? Can I say the following two sentences? This week, I am conducting new experiments at the laboratory ...
8
votes
4answers
9k views

Is “misogyny” only applicable to men? What is the antonym of misogyny?

I came across the following sentence in New Yorker’s (February 23) article, titled “In Defense of Liz Lemon”: “She behaves as if Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) is her daddy. She doesn’t trust her ...
9
votes
4answers
360 views

“Old Mr. Bunny had no opinion whatever of cats.” What does it mean?

In "The Tale of Benjamin Bunny" Beatrix Potter writes "Old Mr. Bunny had no opinion whatever of cats." What does it mean? The cat looked up and saw old Mr. Benjamin Bunny prancing along the top ...