The American Heritage, Dictionary of Idioms, Ammer C., 1997


The American Heritage, Dictionary of Idioms, Ammer C., 1997.

  This book is a comprehensive survey of the idioms currently used in American English. An idiom is a set phrase of two or more words that means something different from the literal meaning of the individual words. For instance, the phrase to change one's tune has nothing to do with music but means "to alter one's attitude." Similarly, to hit the nail on the head often has nothing to do with carpentry but means simply "to be absolutely right." Idioms are the idiosyncrasies of a language. Often defying the rules of logic, they pose great difficulties for non-native speakers. English abounds with phrases such as if worst comes to worst, far and away, and how do you do, which, if translated literally, make no sense. Indeed, the true test of an idiom is whether it changes meaning when rendered word for word in another language.

The American Heritage, Dictionary of Idioms, Ammer C., 1997


A.
ace it
Accomplish something with success, as in I'm sure he'll ace it when he takes that bar exam. The verb ace originated in tennis with the meaning "to hit an unreturnable serve against an opponent." The idiom ace it, however, originated as student slang for getting an "A" on an exam or in a course but soon was extended to other successful accomplishments. [Slang; mid-1900s].

act of faith
Behavior that shows or tests a person's religious or other convictions, as in Rock climbing with a new, inexperienced partner was a real act of faith. The term is a translation of the Portuguese auto da fé, which referred to the sentencing and execution of heretics (often by burning at the stake) during the Inquisition, when punishing heresy was thought to constitute an assertion of faith. In modern times it is used for more benign circumstances. [Early 1700s].



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