An explanatory etymological dictionary of English idioms

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This article describes and illustrates an explanatory etymological dictionary of English idioms that is quite different from earlier books of the Why Do We Say So? type. In those books, explanations are usually anonymous, and conflicting opinions are presented most sparingly. Arguments in defense of this or that point of view are typically avoided, except that the best-known conjecture is given as the one to be recommended. The sources behind the current projected dictionary have been popular journals for over 300 years, and thousands of explanations offered for local idioms have been amassed. The database contains over 1,500 such idioms, an insignificant number for a dictionary of words but a respectable one for idioms. Many explanations offered by “the locals” and by professional philologists, though often original and seemingly correct, have not caught the attention of lexicographers. Hundreds of such phrases do not appear even in the most detailed dictionaries of English idioms. Wright's English Dialect Dictionary and even the OED have gaps in this sphere. This article cites typical examples, discusses the principles that guided the author's choice, and compares the new dictionary with its predecessors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-171
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • English idioms
  • Etymological dictionary of idioms
  • Etymology of idioms


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