A phrase is a group of words that make a unit of syntax with a single grammatical function.

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

22
votes
3answers
1k views

Why is “head over heels” used as if it were exceptional rather than commonplace?

Most people spend part of each day standing, and if they have normal anatomy their heads are over their heels in this position. Even sitting or lying down, the head is higher than the heels (if not ...
19
votes
18answers
4k views

What's an idiom for something that you've heard many times?

I'm trying to write something for my blog, and I need an idiom that will replace me saying, "I've heard people say that all the time, it's the same old story."
17
votes
2answers
1k views

What does “velvet-rope-poor” mean?

There was the following sentence in the New York Times (February 8) article titled, “Azerbaijan is rich. It wants to be famous.”: “Oil-rich, velvet-rope-poor Azerbaijan, a country about the size ...
15
votes
7answers
5k views

What does “It’s sorta meta,” mean?

Maureen Dowd wrote a review on the recently released movie, “J.Edgar” directed by Clint Eastwood in New York Times November 12 issue under the title, “Dirty Harry meets dirtier Edgar.” Apart from the ...
12
votes
7answers
1k views

Other ways to say “I have a bad hunch”

I'm looking for ways to say "I'm having a bad hunch", or more like a bad feeling about something upcoming. The gut-wrenching feeling that something bad will happen.
11
votes
6answers
20k views

Correct usage of “to coin a phrase”

I've always thought "to coin a phrase" means to invent a phrase or be the first person to use it. Today I came across this usage by a reporter for the Lancashire Telegraph The Burnley board are ...
11
votes
5answers
2k views

What does “What price [noun]?” mean?

I've come across phrases like "What price freedom?" a lot. I speak British English and it doesn't read nicely to me. It seems some words are missing. Does it mean "What is the price of X?"? Where did ...
10
votes
3answers
929 views

What does “Sleep through the Second Coming” mean?

There is the following statement in Jeffery Archer’s fiction “Kane & Abel,” in which William Kane, one of the two heroes looks at his wife sleeping soundly on bed unaware of his big problem: ...
10
votes
4answers
552 views

What exactly is “noonday night”?

In answering the question Is there a term for “midnight” that is like “noon”, I came across the phrase noonday night listed as a synonym for midnight in my copy of Roget's International ...
9
votes
4answers
3k views

Is ‘Take something cum grano salis’ a popular phrase? Can I use it in casual conversation?

I came across the phrase, ‘cum grano salis’ in the article written by Chris Cillizza, a political pundit in the August 8th Washington Post’s article under the title ‘GOP smells blood in Presidential ...
8
votes
5answers
6k views

Where does the phrase “in good nick” come from?

The term "in good nick" meaning "in a good condition" came up in conversation and I realised I had no idea where it came from. Searching online seems surprisingly fruitless- there are several roots ...
8
votes
6answers
25k views

Can “Sure thing” mean “You're welcome”?

I'm looking for different ways to say "you're welcome." Is "sure thing" one of those ways? If it is, then how? I looked up its meaning and it doesn't seem to make sense as a replacement for "you're ...
8
votes
1answer
4k views

What does “Faustian bargain” mean?

In an article I see this phrase "Faustian bargain". Both I and my teacher were unable to translate or understand it. Can you help me and explain this phrase? Context: The reason for linking all ...
8
votes
3answers
50k views

Does the casual use of “a la ___” in English preserve the French meaning?

In English, we use a la carte and a la mode, but it is also common for people to add their own word to the basic construction. For example, one might comment on someone's dancing: He showed us ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

What's the story with the British use of “miss not having” vs. “miss having?”

This one has bugged me for years. When an American English speaker wishes to express regret that Joe doesn't come around any more, they would typically say, "I really miss having him around." It ...
7
votes
4answers
13k views

“In regard to” or “in regards to”

Is it incorrect to say either of the following? In regards to your previous email In regards to your previous emails I was asked this by a non-native speaker, and after thinking about it I ...
7
votes
3answers
458 views

Is there a term for a self-fulfilling sentence?

I am wondering if there is a term for sentences that describe what the sentence accomplishes. For example, the phrase "I'm warning you." The sentence simultaneously does the warning and says it is ...
7
votes
4answers
4k views

Is ‘Set one’s hair on fire’ a popular English idiom?

Yesterday’s (September8) New York Times carried an article titled ‘Setting Their Hair on Fire’ which was written by economist, Paul Krugman. It is followed by the following sentence: “First things ...
7
votes
3answers
7k views

What does ‘Camel gets his nose under the tent’ mean?

In the article of New York Times co-ed columnist, Maureen Dowd dealing with Republicans’ objection of the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ under the title, “Mad Men and Mad Women”, I came across an ...
6
votes
3answers
2k views

Is “Less than perfect” always used in a sarcastic and negative way?

I always use the phrase less than perfect in a sarcastic way, meaning that something is not good at all. For example: My date was obviously less than perfect. She was late and in a hurry, and she ...
6
votes
5answers
9k views

Phrase for asking the obvious

In my language when a question is asking something really obvious we are using a phrase that if translated means: What is making a "meow meow" sound on the roof/rooftop? Is there an equivalent ...
6
votes
5answers
1k views

What do I have to say when I enter into a house?

In Italy when you want to enter inside the house of a stranger or also of a friend you knock at the door and say, "Permesso?" meaning, "Can I enter?" or "Do I have the permission to enter in your ...
6
votes
8answers
3k views

Alternative to “double entendre”?

Does anyone know another word or way to say double entendre — in the non-bawdy sense of the word — as this phrase was only invented in the latter 1600's and so not around when Shakespeare wrote his ...
6
votes
3answers
31k views

What does “what's the catch” mean?

It sounds like a marketing term. Does it mean "However there are some points to take note"?
5
votes
6answers
3k views

A phrase for “extremely bad luck”

Is there a (short) phrase or idiom meaning that someone had extremely bad luck? In the context of a sports match: as you would have a "perfect game" or the even more specific "perfect hand" (when ...
5
votes
2answers
320 views

Has the term ‘weapons of mass distraction’ gotten currency as a metonym for web sites and lowbrow mass media contents?

I found the term ‘weapons of mass distraction’ in the article titled “Social Networking in the 1600s” in the Sunday Review section of June 22 New York Times, which begins with; “Social networks ...
5
votes
4answers
50k views

Does the phrase “who's in?” or “I'm in!” exist in (informal) English?

I really think I've heard it in some American sitcom/sitcoms, meaning something like participating in. "I want to play football. Who's in?" — "Great idea, I'm in!" Does it really exist, or am I wrong? ...
5
votes
4answers
111k views

What is the origin and meaning of the phrase “bane of my existence”?

A friend recently used the phrase bane of my existence, and while I’m familiar with the phrase, I would like to know its origin and meaning.
5
votes
1answer
14k views

Etymology of “quick” of a fingernail, as in “cut to the quick”

Part of a fingernail known as the hyponychium is informally known as the "quick". It is referenced in the saying "cut to the quick". What is the etymology of the word quick as in reference to the ...
5
votes
5answers
9k views

What is the origin of the phrase “to go apeshit”?

What is the origin of the phrase "to go apeshit"? An example usage would be: And then he went apeshit over the prize he just won. Obviously there is a strong visual associated with an angry ...
4
votes
10answers
706 views

Phrase meaning “North, but not directly North, from here”

I have 40 characters to give hints to users about the location of a "prize" (Broken up into two lines of 20 characters.) There is some ambiguity when I send the following hint: The prize is somewhere ...
4
votes
2answers
2k views

Shotgun and front seats in the car

What does "calling shotgun" have to do with reservation of a seat near the car driver?
4
votes
5answers
7k views

What does “fly by the seat of one's pants” mean?

Reading a book, I came across an expression I really can't parse. For some developers, the invocation of the word plan is cause for alarm. Endless meetings with pointy-haired bosses creating ...
4
votes
7answers
6k views

The meaning of “This is it”

Does "this is it," mean "this is the end?" How is this possible?
4
votes
2answers
26k views

What are the implications of “at my disposal”

I found myself using the phrase "[something] is at my disposal" as a way of indicating that a particular resource is available for my use. My question arises from the word disposal. It seems to ...
3
votes
2answers
722 views

Is “put together” an adjectival phrase?

When someone says "He is smarter than I and she put together," what is the function of the phrase "put together"? Is it considered an adjective?
3
votes
2answers
255 views

“Credulous” - Formal Use

What is the basic meaning of Credulous , in which context it will be the best to use instead of "willing to believe" ? How formally we can use "Credulous" ?
2
votes
2answers
115 views

Psychological term or phrase for experiencing the world via the senses

I am looking for a psychological term or phrase for experiencing the world via the senses. (I am particularly interested in visual, auditory and thermal stimuli.) I am not looking for the word ...
0
votes
1answer
173 views

About two mutually related, future actions [closed]

Is it correct to say: "I will do that thing when I will talk to him."?
15
votes
4answers
483 views

“The whole nine yards”

What is the origin of the phrase "the whole nine yards"? Is it a reference to some game of sports I am not familiar with (as a continental European)?
11
votes
6answers
6k views

Meaning of the phrase “the wrong side of history”

I've just realized I don't understand what this phrase means. What does "Gaddafi is on the wrong side of history" mean? Does it mean he's about to die, or something else? Here's the relevant ...
11
votes
6answers
27k views

What is the origin of the phrase “hunky dory”?

What is the origin of the phrase “hunky dory”?
10
votes
4answers
9k views

Why does someone “pull my leg”?

Someone was pulling my leg the other day (meaning, attempting some mild or humourous deception), and I wondered about the etymology of this phrase. Does anyone know when it originated, and why it ...
10
votes
2answers
4k views

What is the origin of phrase “for fun and profit”?

Sounds like something a snake oil salesman on the wild west could come up with. Can the origins be traced? Edit: In a transcript of a state trial from 1798: What did you give it him for? Did he ...
10
votes
4answers
968 views

Where does the term “cold calling” originate from?

Did it exist before The Telephone - has it always been associated with 'sales'? Here is an example.
10
votes
3answers
41k views

What does ‘Brace yourself’ really mean?

I saw an article titled ‘The Rise of Chinese Cheneys’, written by Nicholas Kristof, with a lead copy China today resembles the Bush era in America: Hard-liners are ascendant. Brace yourself in ...
9
votes
4answers
6k views

Where does “beat around the bush” come from?

Where does the expression "beat around the bush" come from?
8
votes
7answers
41k views

What does the phrase “ungodly hour” really mean?

When I hear people speak of "this ungodly hour" they are usually complaining about being awake (or especially working) earlier than they are accustomed. But why is this called ungodly? It would seem ...
8
votes
6answers
865 views

Is there an aphorism for doing a self-defeating act?

Is there a witty turn of phrase that indicates one's performing an act that, in its doing, undermines, contravenes, or obviates itself? This question relates to a similar idea, but I have it in my ...
7
votes
7answers
646 views

What do you call a circular paved protuberance added to a paved street?

I used to own a house located in a modern suburban street with a circular protuberance, a circular paved (tarred) surface appended to the paved street it was part of. Four houses with their gardens ...