resting on your laurels

If you’re resting on your laurels in today’s world, it means you’re satisfied with your past success and consider further effort unnecessary. The idea of laurel leaves being used to celebrate achievement originated with the leaders and athletic stars of ancient Greece. In Hellenic times, laurel leaves were closely tied to Apollo, the god of music, prophecy and poetry. Apollo…

diehard

A “diehard” is a person who strongly opposes change or continues to support something in spite of opposition. Such a person may hold stubbornly to a minority view, in defiance of the circumstances. Some synonyms: hard-core, traditionalist, steadfast,  inflexible, uncompromising, unyielding, indomitable, rigid, set in one’s ways. While the word typically refers to someone with a strong dedication to a…

running amok

“Running amok” is used to describe wild or erratic behavior, going crazy. Wikipedia describes “running amok” as an episode of sudden, savage violence against people usually by a single individual following a period of brooding, that has traditionally been regarded as occurring especially in Malay culture but is now increasingly viewed as psychopathological behavior. “Amok” first appeared in English in…

by and large

“By and large” now means: on the whole; generally speaking; all things considered. The phrase is nautical in origin, used as far back as the 1500s, and meant sailing “alternately close-hauled and not close-hauled.” The earliest known reference to “by and large” in print is from Samuel Sturmy, in The Mariners Magazine, 1669. When the wind is blowing from behind…

crocodile tears

  We use the phrase “crocodile tears” to describe a display of false sorrow, but the saying actually derives from a medieval belief that crocodiles shed tears of sadness while they killed and consumed their prey. The myth dates back to the 1300s and comes from a book called The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. Wildly popular upon its release,…

fly-by-night

Specifically, a fly-by-night is someone who departs or flees at night in order to avoid creditors, law enforcement, and so on. A fly-by-night person operates in a dishonest fashion and is not reliable or responsible. A fly-by-night company is a dishonest one that may appear and disappear rapidly. According to Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1796), “fly-by-night” was originally…

brown as a berry

“Brown as a berry” means being very brown and often refers to a good suntan. Nobody knows the origin of the phrase, but it’s old. Chaucer used it twice in his Canterbury Tales and it was probably common in speech years before it was used in writing. Here is the relevant verse from the Monk’s Tale: “He was not pale…