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Potter’s field

Potter's field is a term that has a rather ancient origin. We will look at the meaning of the term potter's field, where it comes from and some example of its use in sentences. A potter's field is a burying ground for indigent people, it is a graveyard for paupers. Contrary to what many may think, the word potter in potter's field is not a proper name and it is not capitalized, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The original potter's field takes its name from the Bible, specifically … [Read more...]

Sacred cow

The idiom sacred cow comes from American English. We will look at the meaning of the term sacred cow, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences. A sacred cow is something that is beyond reproach, something that is above criticism, something that cannot be breached. The term sacred cow, perhaps surprisingly, is an Americanism that first appears around 1890. It is a metaphor that stems from the idea that the Hindu religion elevates certain cows and bulls to a place of … [Read more...]

Hail Mary play or Hail Mary pass

Hail Mary play and Hail Mary pass are American sports terms. We will look at the meaning of Hail Mary play and Hail Mary pass, where the terms came from and some examples of their use in sentences. A Hail Mary play is a desperate play in sports that has a very small chance of being successful. The idea is that the team member making the play does so while saying a prayer that it will be successful, alluding to the Catholic prayer the Hail Mary. The term goes back to the 1920s, it was used by … [Read more...]

Meretricious vs meritorious

Meretricious and meritorious are two words that are often confused. We will look at the difference in meaning between meretricious and meritorious, where these words come from and some examples of their use in sentences. Meretricious describes something that is superficially attractive, garish, something attractive that has no actual value. Meretricious also means insincere. The word first appears in the 1620s, derived from the¬†Latin word meretricius which means pertaining to prostitutes. … [Read more...]

Donnybrook

The word donnybrook is a bit of an old-fashioned word, but is still occasionally used, especially in North America, New Zealand and Australia. We will look at the definition of the term donnybrook, its interesting origin and finally, some examples of its use in sentences. A donnybrook is an occasion that is a bit of an uproar, a chaotic brawl or a heated disagreement. The word donnybrook is derived from a public fair that was held in Donnybrook, Ireland beginning in the 1200s. By the 1800s, … [Read more...]

Repute vs refute

Repute and refute are two words that may be confusing. They are pronounced similarly and spelled similarly but have very different meanings. We will look at the definitions of the words repute and refute, where these words come from and some examples of their use in sentences. Repute is the general public consensus about someone's reputation, the opinion most people hold concerning someone's make-up, personality, abilities, morals, etc. Repute may be used as a noun or a verb, related words … [Read more...]

Hot button

Hot button is an American term that first appeared in the 1970s. We will look at the meaning of the term hot button, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences. Hot button describes a subject or issue that is divisive, is the object of controversy or stirs up strong emotions. The term hot button is often applied to religious or political issues. Though not added to the Oxford English Dictionary until 2009, the term has been in use since the 1970s. Marketers used hot button … [Read more...]

Many happy returns

Many happy returns is a shortening of a longer phrase that has been in use since the 1700s. We will examine the meaning of the term many happy returns, the original phrase it is derived from, and some examples of its use in sentences. Many happy returns means that the speaker wishes that the listener will have many happy years to live. The phrase is shortened from the sentiment many happy returns of the day, which has been a greeting used since the 1700s. One may consider this phrase to have … [Read more...]

Scull vs skull

Scull and skull are two words that may be quite confusing. Though they are pronounced in the same way, these two words are spelled differently and have different meanings. They are homophones. We will look at the definitions of the words scull and skull, where these two words come from and some examples of their use in sentences. A scull is an oar with a flat blade that is used to propel a boat. Sculls may be used singly or in pairs. Scull may be used as a noun or a verb, to mean the act of … [Read more...]

Dahlesque

Dahlesque is a word that has only recently been added to the Oxford English Dictionary. We will examine the meaning of the term Dahlesque, where it comes from and some examples of its use in sentences. Dahlesque means echoing or resembling the style of the British children's author Roald Dahl. Dahl wrote primarily middle-grade novels that appealed to children because of their black, sometimes gruesome humor and terrible depictions of adults. Some of Dahl's well-known stories are Charlie and … [Read more...]

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