Have you ever wondered at the origins of many everyday phrases? Have you ever wanted to use a saying in your story but were unsure if the phrase was around in those days or even exactly what it means?
The Phrase Finder will share with you the meanings and origins of 1,500 English phrases and sayings. You can either search alphabetically or in one of the four categories provided: William Shakespeare, the Bible, Nautical Phrases, or English Proverbs. I was surprised at how many common phrases we use every day came from these sources.
In the Bible section, it gives some interesting background on the King James Version. Along with the works of Shakespeare and the Oxford English Dictionary, this book was instrumental in shaping the English language with much of the phrases still in common use today.
Here’s a few that I thought were less obvious:
A drop in the bucket
A fly in the ointment
As old as the hills
At his wits end
Bite the dust
By the skin of your teeth
Can a leopard change its spots?
Eat drink and be merry
Fight the good fight
Flesh and blood
Give up the ghost
Physician heal thyself
The apple of his eye
The blind leading the blind
The fly in the ointment
The powers that be
The writing is on the walL
In the alphabetical section I clicked on C and then on “Carpe diem”.
Meaning: Usually translated from the Latin as ‘seize the day’, or sometimes as ‘enjoy the day, pluck the day when it is ripe’.
Origin: The origin source for the Latin phrase is Horace – in Odes Book I:
Dum loquimur, fugerit invida
Aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero
which translates as:
While we’re talking, envious time is fleeing: seize the day, put no trust in the future.
Lord Byron was the first to integrate it into English in his 1817 ‘Letters’, which was published in 1830 by T. Moore:
“I never anticipate, – carpe diem – the past at least is one’s own, which is one reason for making sure of the present.”
Byron’s use of a quotation from Horace isn’t surprising as the poet published ‘Hints from Horace’ just a few years earlier, in 1811.
I could spend hours just clicking on different phrases – fascinating stuff!
Do you like this kind research? How much do you think you know about the origin of common phrases? Here’s a quiz if you want to find out.
Happy procrastinating er… I mean writing! :)