Take My Word for It

A Dictionary of English Idioms

2022
Author:

Anatoly Liberman

Three centuries of English idioms—their unusual origins and unexpected interpretations

Spanning more than three centuries, Take My Word for It is a fascinating, one-of-a-kind window into the surprisingly short history of idioms in English. Widely known for his studies of word origins, Anatoly Liberman explains more than one thousand idioms, both popular and obscure, occurring in both American and British standard English and including many regional expressions. 

Take the cake. Raining cats and dogs. By hook or by crook. Curry favor. Drink like a fish. Eat crow. We hear such phrases every day, but this book is the first truly all-encompassing etymological guide to both their meanings and origins. Spanning more than three centuries, Take My Word for It is a fascinating, one-of-a-kind window into the surprisingly short history of idioms in English. Widely known for his studies of word origins, Anatoly Liberman explains more than one thousand idioms, both popular and obscure, occurring in both American and British standard English and including many regional expressions.

The origins, and even the precise meaning, of most idioms are often obscure and lost in history. Based on a critical analysis of countless conjectures, with exact, in-depth references (rare in the literature on the subject), Take My Word for It provides not only a large corpus of idiomatic phrases but also a substantial bibliography. Detailed indexes and a thesaurus make the content accessible at a glance, and Liberman’s introduction and conclusion add historical dimensions. The result of decades of research by a leading authority, this book is both instructive and absorbing for scholars and general readers, who won’t find another resource comparable in scope or based on data even remotely as comprehensive.

Cover alt text: Hand, drawn in early twentieth century style, holds white boardgame card with title and author over orange and yellow cards, each with various idioms.

Anatoly Liberman is professor of Germanic philology at the University of Minnesota. He has written more than twenty books, including A Bibliography of English Etymology and An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology (both from Minnesota).

Contents

Preface: Idioms in Our Life

A Historian’s View: Idioms as a Late Dessert

Sources and Abbreviations

The Idioms, A to Z

Indexes

Word Index

Name Index

Theme Index

Purchase

About E-books

Available in January 2023