I'm often interested in the origins of English phrases, and I know that I can find answers by googling, and I can find good answers by asking here.

How can I find good answers myself? Are there any well-known, respected, and fairly comprehensive sources for origins of English expressions and idioms?

closed as off-topic by Kristina Lopez, user49727, Brian Hooper, Christi, Hellion Nov 21 '13 at 14:06

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  • "Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. A list of these references can be found here: List of general references" – Kristina Lopez, user49727, Brian Hooper
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A handy source online is The Phrase Finder:



I recommend Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable now at 16th edition.It is a bulky one -1326 pages


Some other good online resources:

Online Etymology Dictionary (often has phrases within entries for individual words)
World Wide Words (Michael Quinion's archive of well-researched articles)
Wordwizard (excellent discussion-based site with a focus on word and phrase origins)

and ditto to @Robusto's answer. . .(usually)


Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable is a good start for many expressions. There are a couple of on-line versions; I've linked to the most searchable one I could find, but Google will show you others.

  • @Bogdan: that sounds plausible. I'd certainly recommend getting a paper copy anyway. – user1579 Apr 29 '11 at 0:06

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