24/7 – all the time; always available; without a break (neutral connotation).

  • In New York City, a lot of stores are open 24/7.
  • He's been working 24/7 and collapsed on the couch when he got home.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (all the time).

ace – to do something very well; first-rate (positive connotation).

  • I'm going to ace this exam – I've been studying all week!
  • Lois Lane was the ace reporter for the Daily Planet.

Etymology: In World War I, a pilot who shot down five enemy planes was called an "ace," which is the most powerful card in a deck of playing cards.

airhead – (noun) stupid person (negative connotation).

  • I wouldn't ask Elaine for the answer – she's an airhead.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: If your head is full of air and not brains, you probably cannot think very well.

all ears – listening carefully; keenly attentive (neutral or positive connotation).

  • I was all ears as Karen told me this exciting story.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: You listen with your ears, so if you are "all ears" your entire being is listening to someone.

all-nighter – a study or work session that goes through the night; studying without sleep, usually a last minute course of action (positive, negative or neutral connotation).

  • I pulled an all-nighter to study for my medical transcription exam.
  • He's a serious partier and tends to pull all-nighters.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: The term is popular with college students who spend the night before an exam studying (or "cramming"), trying to learn a lot of material in a short period of time. The term is frequently used in the phrase "pull an all-nighter."

all wet – completely wrong (negative connotation).

  • Your ideas about politics are all wet.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

antifreeze – (noun) liquor (neutral connotation).

  • I really need some antifreeze in me on cold days like this.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

ants in your pants – to be unable to sit still (negative or neutral connotation).

  • The children had ants in their pants, so we took them outside for some exercise.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: If you have ants (small insects) in your pants (clothing) you will probably feel like jumping around.

arm and a leg – a large amount of money, very costly (negative connotation).

  • My new Mercedes cost me an arm and a leg.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Some things are so expensive that they are painful to buy, and cost everything you have.

armpit/the pits – (noun) undesirable place (negative connotation).

  • This town is really an armpit.
  • This neighborhood is the pits.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

at the end of your rope – to be out of options or alternative courses of action; to be stuck in a bad situation (negative connotation).

  • I'm at the end of my rope – I lost my job, my car was repossessed, and I don't have any money in the bank.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: To be "at the end of your rope" means that there is no more help available, and the situation is not good.

average Joe – someone who is just like everyone else; a normal person (neutral or negative connotation).

  • Mickey is your average Joe – he likes football, hates opera music, and thinks it's a crime to do any work on the weekends.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Average means in the middle or not extreme, and Joe is a common male name, so "average Joe" refers to a man who is not extremely different from everyone else. "Average Joe" can also be used in reference to a woman (she's an "average Joe" or "plain Jane").

awesome – (adjective) great, wonderful (positive connotation).

  • What an awesome sunset.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: This is not actually slang but rather a very common term used by teenagers in America coined in the 1990s. The term has actually become an overused, monotonous, almost ridiculously used term by America's youth today. It seems that "everything" is awesome to them… that was an awesome movie… what an awesome bike… you look awesome etc. Its meaning now has become watered down in that it detracts from the true meaning of awesome, which is almost spiritual – awestruck, humbled by God, the awesome Power of God, etc.

ax – to eliminate someone from their job; to terminate employment. Spelling: 'ax' is American English; 'axe' is British English.

  • My company axed me after they found out I had been sleeping on the job.
  • Sally was given the ax on Friday.

ax to grind – current meaning: an angry person with a dispute to settle; original meaning: a person who has a hidden motive behind their actions (negative connotation).

  • Samuel told his wife he had an ax to grind about her excessive spending during her recent shopping spree.
  • When I see a merchant over-polite to his customers, I think "that man has an ax to grind."

Etymology: Benjamin Franklin published a lot of stories using this phrase. Franklin was approached by a stranger who stopped to admire the family grindstone (a stone for sharpening things). He asked to be shown how it worked and offered Ben Franklin an ax to demonstrate. Once the ax was sharp, the stranger walked off laughing. Today "having an ax to grind" can mean someone has a hidden motive behind their actions.

back burner – not an urgent priority; to put something off until a later time (neutral connotation).

  • We worked hard on the project at first, but when a new project came along, we put it on the back burner.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: The back burner of a stove is where you put things that are slowly cooking and that you can leave alone for awhile unattended.

back on your feet – to recover, usually from an illness (positive connotation).

  • Bridget has been in the hospital, but she'll be back on her feet in no time.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: To be on your feet means that you are standing. So if you are back on your feet, it means that you are standing again and ready to move about.

back seat driver – someone who gives unwanted advice; someone who tries to run things even though they don't have the power or authority to do so (negative connotation).

  • Rob is the worst back seat driver I know – he's always telling me what to do!

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Sometimes people riding in the back seat of a car will give advice to the driver; this is usually more annoying than helpful. This phrase can be used literally (in a car) or more generally to make fun of someone who is giving unwanted advice.

back to the drawing board – to begin again; to repeat a process often after a major setback (negative connotation).

  • Professor Hoffman had to go back to the drawing board after his experiment blew up.
  • I failed my exam. Well, I guess it's back to the drawing board for me!

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: If the initial design for a building or aircraft fails, the designer has to go back to his or her worktable and begin again.

bad egg – a troublemaker; someone who has a bad attitude and causes trouble (negative connotation).

  • We have to get rid of the bad eggs in the accounting department.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: In this phrase, egg means person. This is probably because the human head is shaped like an egg. Hen houses are commonly cleared of the bad eggs to keep them from going to market where they might make someone sick. There is a similar phrase to describe a good person – a good egg.

bad mouth – to say negative things about someone or something (negative connotation).

  • Lisa bad-mouthed her boss during her tea break.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Bad means not good, and mouth refers to the physical act of speech.

ballpark figure – a good numerical guess; an estimate (neutral connotation).

  • I'd say that ring costs two hundred dollars, but that's a ballpark figure.
  • Our annual budget is a ballpark figure of fifteen million.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: This phrase is related to another popular phrase, "in the ballpark," which means close, in the general range, but not yet there. The idea is that a ballpark is a huge stadium or arena. You can be in the ballpark (a place where baseball games are played) but not yet in the right seat or area (the seat you have a ticket for). The seat is a metaphor for the right idea or place, and the ballpark is a metaphor for an approximation of that idea or place. A "ballpark figure" is a number that is "in the ballpark" (close to the true number) but not quite in the right seat (the true number).

barf – (verb) vomit (negative connotation).

  • He barfed all over the seat on the airplane.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

barking up the wrong tree – looking for something in the wrong place (negative connotation).

  • Tanya tried to get some money from her uncle, but she was barking up the wrong tree – he doesn't have a dime!

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: A dog will chase its prey (such as a cat) until it runs up a tree. The dog then barks to tell its owner where the prey is. Sometimes, the dog might get confused, and bark at the wrong tree where there is no prey.

basket case – crazy; hopelessly broken down (negative connotation).

  • After his wife left him, Paul was a real basket case.

Etymology: World War I term used to describe a soldier so badly wounded that he had to be carried in a basket.

beat – (adjective) exhausted (negative connotation).

  • After working all day, I am really beat.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

behind bars – in prison or jail; incarcerated (negative connotation).

  • I can't wait until they catch the killer and put him behind bars.

Etymology: Prison inmates are locked behind metal bars which prevent their escape.

bench – (verb) to take out of the game (negative connotation).

  • He was benched during the basketball playoffs.
  • Much to her dismay, Theresa was benched from the project.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Benches are found surrounding the court or playing area of sports in which inactive players sit. This slang of bench (noun) has been turned into a verb to indicate the action of a player who is pulled out of a game and asked to sit on the bench.

bender – an episode of heavy drinking; a period of any kind of unusually intense behavior (negative connotation).

  • After losing my job, I was so depressed that I went on a three-day bender.

Etymology: Comes from the 19th century sense of the word "bender," which was used for anything great or spectacular.

big guns – powerful people (positive connotation).

  • The prospective client did not seem all that enthused with the presentation, so the vice president brought in his big guns.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

(the) big house – a maximum-security federal prison (negative connotation).

  • After he got caught robbing a bank, Ted was sent to the big house for 20 years.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: A house is where people live, and a prison is quite large and home to hundreds of criminals. This phrase became popular in the early 1900s, when organized crime and large-scale prisons developed in the United States.

big mouth – (noun) someone who can’t keep a secret and talks to much (negative connotation).

  • Shut up! You’re really a big mouth.
  • Don't tell her that information - she's a big mouth and will blab it all over.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

bling – jewelry, particularly expensive, flashy and sparkly jewelry (positive connotation).

  • She was covered in bling from head to toe.
  • How do you like the new bling my husband bought me?

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Bling is very new slang used often in Hollywood as the term describing the very expensive jewelry worn by famous actors and actresses.

blow chunks – to vomit (negative connotation).

  • I feel really sick – I could blow chunks right here!

Etymology: Slang coined in the 1980s commonly used by America's youth; a very vile way to describe vomit.

blow it – to do very poorly or fail miserably; to destroy the chance of something (negative connotation).

  • This course is very important to me, and I don't want to blow it.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Like a mountaintop blowing and losing an important piece of its structure.

blue (or down) – (adjective) sad, depressed (negative connotation).

  • Mary is feeling blue because her cat died.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Blue is considered a cool or melancholic color versus red, orange or yellow, which are considered warm colors.

B.O. – abbreviation for body odor (negative connotation).

  • That cab driver had such B.O. that I almost passed out.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

boo-boo – (noun) mistake or what is referred to as a childhood wound (negative connotation).

  • If you make another boo-boo like that, you won't have a job.
  • The little child said, "Mommy, please kiss my boo-boo."

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Children's slang derived from idiosyncratic or nonsensical terms uttered by children.

booze – (noun) alcohol (neutral connotation).

  • I promised to bring two bottles of booze to the party.

Etymology: Origin is from the 1300s meaning strong drink.

boozehound – someone who drinks a lot of alcohol; a drunk (negative connotation).

  • Tom is quite a boozehound – he has half a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red for lunch!

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: A hound is a hunting dog, and booze is liquor, so a boozehound is someone who pursues liquor like a dog hunting prey.

bounce – to get kicked out of an establishment (negative connotation).

  • The guys were acting unruly during the game so they got bounced.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: A "bouncer" is someone (typically a large, muscular male) who works at a nightclub or bar and serves to "keep the peace" by escorting people to the door or physically removing them from the establishment when they get out of hand. Like bouncing a ball out the door.

brainy – very intelligent, like a genius (positive connotation).

  • Sue is real brainy and will do well on the test without even studying.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

brewski – a bottle, can or glass of beer (positive connotation).

  • Let's go get a brewski after work.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: To make beer, you brew or cook water, malt, and hops. No one is sure when or why the "ski" ending was added to "brew." The ending sounds Russian or Polish, and somehow makes the word sound kind of fun.

broke – (adjective) without money (negative connotation).

  • Lou spent all his money at the casino and now he's broke.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

bump off – to kill, murder, assassinate (negative connotation).

  • The mob boss instructed one of his generals to bump off Vito.

Etymology: This phrase comes from 1920s American gangster slang. When you "bump" something, you give it a little push. "Off" means not on, so if you "bump someone off," you push him toward the end of his life. Synonymous term is to "rub out.")

burnt out – extremely tired; worn out from working too much (negative connotation).

  • I was extremely burnt out after working on a big project for three weeks straight.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: When you are burned out you have no more fuel to burn. You are without energy, like a candle that has consumed all of its wax.

bust digits – to get someone's telephone number (positive connotation).

  • Bob told me he needs a date for tomorrow night, so he's going to try to bust some digits tonight.

Etymology: This is African-American slang. Digits are numbers and bust means break open, so the phrase suggests that you're getting some numbers from a source that has to be opened up.

butts – cigarettes, or the remains of a cigarette (neutral connotation).

  • Hey, can you spare a butt?
  • Look at this mess! Someone threw butts all over the ground.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: A butt is the end or rear of something. In this slang word, the end of the cigarette refers both to the end of the cigarette and to the whole cigarette.

buy the farm/bought the farm – to die (negative connotation).

  • Lance bought the farm when he drove his motorcycle straight into a brick wall.

Etymology: When a person dies, sometimes the life insurance payment is large enough for the surviving family members to pay off the mortgage on a piece of property - or "buy the farm."

catch some Z's – get some sleep (positive or neutral connotation).

  • I need to catch some Z's before I go on my trip.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: In cartoon depictions, a character sleeping has a series of z-z-z-z-z's coming from their mouth indicating snoring.

chick – a young woman, particularly an attractive young woman (positive connotation).

  • I like Holly – she's a cute chick!
  • Marty wants to go out to meet some chicks tonight.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: A chick is a young chicken or any baby bird. The use of chick to refer to a young woman comes from 1920s African-American slang.

chicken – a coward; someone who is not daring or willing to take risks; a person with little self-confidence (negative connotation).

  • Don't be a chicken – go introduce yourself to the professor.
  • Come on, you chicken. Just try one of my homemade cookies.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: A chicken is a rather skittish animal that frightens easily.

chocoholic – a person who loves/is addicted to chocolate (neutral, positive or negative connotation).

  • I ate an entire box of chocolates and my sister says I must be a chocoholic.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

chow – (noun) food, a meal; (verb), to eat (positive or neutral connotation).

  • I'm starving! Let's get some chow.
  • Dinner is served. Let's chow!

Etymology: This word dates back to the 1800s and may come from the Chinese American phrase "chow-chow," which refers to a mixture of foods.

cold feet – loss of courage (negative connotation).

  • Lisa wanted to jump off the high diving board, but she got cold feet once she got up there.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: If your feet are cold, you can't walk or move forward very well - you are frozen in one place.

cold fish – dull and distant (negative connotation)

  • My date for the dance was a cold fish.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

cop – (noun) policeman (neutral connotation); (verb) to steal, get or take (negative connotation).

  • The cop showed me his badge.
  • I asked him how he got the road sign, and he told me that he copped it.

Etymology: Cop is the shortened form of "copper." Copper is a slang noun derived from the verb "cop" meaning to catch or capture. A "copper" is a police officer who captures or "cops" criminals.

couch potato – (noun) one who sits in front of the television for long periods of time with little or no physical activity; relaxing (neutral, positive or negative connotation).

  • My roommate is such a couch potato. Last weekend he watched television for 14 hours straight!
  • My schedule has been so busy lately that I can't wait to be a couch potato tonight.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: A potato is a vegetable that grows in a dormant position in the ground (as to be enveloped on a couch); not like other vegetables that grow from vines.

crash – to fail or stop functioning; to collapse from exhaustion or fatigue; to get rest (neutral or negative connotation).

  • My computer crashed just when I was going to print my paper.
  • I finally crashed after working 14 hours straight.
  • Is it all right if I crash at your house tonight?

Etymology: Origin unknown.

creep – a weird or disturbing person; an annoying person (negative connotation).

  • Some creep was bothering Sue last night at the party.
  • I hate it when my little brother follows us around. He's such a creep!

Etymology: Origin unknown.

croak – to die (negative connotation).

  • Old man Baker croaked last night.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Croak refers to the sound that some animals make when they die.

cruise – (verb) to go very fast; to leave (neutral or positive connotation).

  • The skier was cruising down the hill.
  • I'm ready to leave – let's cruise.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

cut a deal – to make an agreement; to form a contract (neutral, negative or positive connotation).

  • We cut a deal with Sony and now we handle all of their accounts in Jersey City.

Etymology: This phrase goes back to the ancient practice of killing an animal and slicing it up to mark the beginning of a new agreement.

cut and dry – something which is very obvious and clear; not requiring further explanation (neutral connotation).

  • Stop asking me questions – the instructions are cut and dry.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

da bomb – excellent, the best (positive connotation).

  • Michael Jordan was da bomb – he was the greatest basketball player ever!

Etymology: "Da bomb" is African American slang that became popular in the 1990s. "Da" is an informal way to say "the," and "bomb" refers to something very powerful and explosive.

dicey – risky, dangerous, promiscuous (neutral or negative connotation).

  • Getting into a fight with Jim is very dicey – he is a black belt in karate.
  • She is very young to be dressed so dicey.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: The root word is "dice," indicating chance, risk.

dinosaur – very old; out of date; obsolete (neutral or negative connotation).

  • This software is a dinosaur.
  • Richard loves the Rolling Stones and all of those other dinosaur rock bands.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: A dinosaur is an ancient animal that no longer exists. As slang, it refers to anything that is outdated and no longer desirable.

dis' – (verb) to insult someone (noun) or the insult itself (negative connotation).

  • Did you hear that? He just dissed you!
  • Don't let me hear another dis out of your mouth!

Etymology: Dis is recent slang coined by African Americans and comes from the word DISrespect.

ditch – to leave an unwanted person, place or thing behind; to get rid of someone quickly and without notice (negative connotation).

  • Terry ditched his girlfriend to get together with his friends.
  • When are you going to ditch that ugly, old hat?

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: A ditch is a hole in the ground. The informal meaning of the word comes from the idea that you can hide or get rid of something in a ditch.

doctor – to tamper with something so as to fix it; to fiddle or interfere with (neutral, negative or positive connotation).

  • He doctored the video game so he could win every time.
  • Do you want to know why your DVD player doesn't work? Ernie doctored it.
  • I doctored my bed frame which will save me the expense of buying a new one.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

d'oh – (pronounced "doe") an exclamation that usually follows the sudden realization that you did something stupid (negative, comical connotation).

  • Two plus two is five. D'oh! I mean four.
  • Someone call 9-1-1! What's the number? D'oh!

Etymology: Homer Simpson, the notorious cartoon family man on the television show "The Simpsons," is given credit for popularizing this expression. Feel free to use it any time you do or say something dumb!

doormat – a weak individual who is regularly abused or taken advantage of by others (negative connotation).

  • Ned will never get anywhere until he stops being such a doormat.
  • I don’t like going to her house, because I can't stand watching her husband treat her like a doormat.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: A doormat is where people wipe their feet before entering a house, so someone who is called a doormat is someone who gets taken advantage of or abused by other people.

dope – OLD SLANG – (noun) a stupid person (negative connotation).

  • He is such a dope.

dope – OLD SLANG – (noun) drugs (negative connotation).

  • There are a lot of dope dealers around here.

dope – NEW SLANG – (adjective) cool, fabulous, desirable (positive connotation).

  • Your new car is dope!

Etymology: The term dope as slang has changed meanings over the years (listed above as the oldest to the most recent). "Dope" as a drug (second definition) is not used much anymore. The latter definition is common rapper slang coined by the African American culture. Synonymous with the slang term "fly;" as in "Your outfit is so fly!"

downer – something or someone that is depressing; anything that makes one sad (negative connotation).

  • Matt was a real downer last night. All he did was talk about his problems.
  • It was a real downer to hear that all those kids were injured in a school bus accident.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: When you are filled with positive emotions and happy thoughts, you are up. When you are sad and depressed, you are down.

drag queen – a homosexual man who dresses like a woman (neutral or negative connotation).

  • The drag queen on the subway was wearing a gold dress.

Etymology: Origin dates back from about 1870. In drag: this expression originally alluded to male actors wearing women's apparel on stage, especially for comic purposes.

dressed to kill – wearing fashionable clothing; dressed in one's most stylish and sophisticated apparel (positive connotation).

  • Tina was dressed to kill on the first day of her new job.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: The idea is that your appearance could be so strong and powerful that you would dominate, defeat, knock over anyone who sees you.

dry run – a practice session; a trial exercise; a rehearsal (neutral connotation).

  • Let's go through a dry run of our presentation before we give it to the board of directors.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

early bird – someone who wakes up and starts working very early in the day; someone who arrives before an event begins (neutral connotation).

  • Tom is a real early bird—he's always the first person at the office in the morning.
  • My grandparents often take advantage of the 4 p.m. early-bird specials offered at the diner.

Etymology: Origin is from the proverb, "The early bird catches the worm."

eat lead – one who is shot at with a gun is said to "eat lead;" as an exclamation, the phrase is directed toward the target (negative connotation).

  • Eat lead! - yelled the bank robber as he fired his gun at the police outside.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: A bullet is made of lead so when a gun is fired at someone, the intended target might be "eating lead" - that is, bringing the bullet inside the body.

eats – (noun) food, particularly simple, good, inexpensive food (positive connotation).

  • I'm hungry. Let's get some eats!
  • Those vittles are good eats!

Etymology: Origin unknown. This slang term turns the verb "eat" into a noun.

egghead – an overly intelligent person; someone who thinks too much (negative connotation).

  • Charles is such an egghead. He won't figure a tip without using a calculator!

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Presumably, someone who thinks a lot must have a big brain, and their head must be large enough to hold their brain. A large head might be shaped something like a giant egg.

excess baggage – a person or thing that gets in the way; a burden that you are stuck with (negative connotation).

  • Louis is dating a single mother but said her kids are excess baggage, so he's going to break up with her.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: When you fly on a plane, there are limits on how much luggage (or how many suitcases or bags) you can bring with you. Anything over the limit is called 'excess baggage' (or extra bags) and cannot be put on the plane.

fall for – to become infatuated with somebody; to develop intense feelings for someone; to become romantically attached (positive connotation). To be fooled; to believe a false story (negative connotation).

  • I have been dating him for a month, but I think I fell for him after the first date.
  • You didn't fall for that advertisement about making money on the Internet, did you?
  • You fell for the oldest trick in the book!

Etymology: Origin unknown.

fat cat – a person who has great wealth and power; a tycoon (neutral, positive or negative connotation).

  • Many of the city's fat cats dine at the exclusive restaurant on First Avenue.
  • Those fat cats in Washington are going to keep pressuring Congress to pass the tax bill.

Etymology: This term comes from the 1920s, when it was used to describe wealthy contributors to American political parties.

feed the meter – to put money in a parking meter; to pay for additional parking time (neutral connotation).

  • When you park on the street, you've got to feed the meter all day.
  • I've got to run and feed the meter – I don't want to get a parking ticket!

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: This phrase compares a parking meter to an animal which must be "fed" with a steady diet of coins.

fishy – (adjective) suspicious (negative connotation).

  • Mrs. Smith thought it was fishy that her neighbor had so many visitors at night.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Fish is not a good smell and has a very strong and noxious odor, and one becomes acutely aware when the unpleasant smell of a fish is present.

five o'clock shadow – facial stubble; a man's beard at the end of the day (neutral or negative connotation).

  • My husband shaves every morning, but has five o'clock shadow every night.
  • Please shave your five o'clock shadow; it hurts when you kiss me!

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: The typical American workday ends at five o'clock in the afternoon. A "shadow" is a patch of darkness, or a hint of the presence of something. After spending a full day at work for eight or more hours, many men have a noticeable growth of facial hair, which is dark like a shadow and hints at the beard that will grow if left unshaven.

flakey – airhead, scatter-brained, someone unable to focus, not very intelligent (typically denoting women) (negative connotation).

  • Susan is too flakey to be hired for this job.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Something that is flakey is not well adhered to itself (bread, pastry, etc.) and has many layers that can easily fall apart.

fore – a term used in golf to warn players on a golf course that a golf ball is headed their way meaning "look out" or "get out of the way" (neutral connotation).

  • Peter's shot went far to the left, so we yelled "fore!" at the players on the next hole.

Etymology: "Fore" means ahead and is believed to come from the military "beware before," which was shouted when shooting battery behind the troops. Another explanation sometimes offered is Flying Objects Returning to Earth.

freak – a social outcast or misfit; a strange person (negative connotation).

  • The protest rally was filled with hippies and freaks.

Etymology: In the 1700s, freaked meant covered with spots or colors. By 1900, freak meant irregular or not normal, perhaps in reference to spots of color as imperfections in a manufacturing process. In the 1960s, freak became a popular term for hippies who experimented with psychotropic and hallucinogenic drugs. Today, freak has a surprising number of meanings, all coming from the sense of "irregular," including a hippie, a drug addict, crazy behavior (as in "He freaked when I told him I wrecked his car"), a sexually promiscuous person, or an unusually beautiful woman (as in "she is freakishly beautiful!").

freak out – to act out of control; lose control; get excited; behavior of someone under the influence of illegal drugs (negative and positive connotation).

  • When I told him we were flying to Paris, he freaked out! (positive)
  • After taking an overdose of drugs, she freaked out in the emergency room. (negative)

Etymology: Origin unknown.

gibberish – speech that doesn't make sense; nonsensical words and phrases (neutral or negative connotation).

  • The old man sat on the bench speaking gibberish.
  • This doctor's dictation sounds like gibberish!

Etymology: This comes from the Scandinavian words gibe/gipa/gape, which refer to joking or nonsensical talk. The '-ish' ending means 'from the place where they speak gibber (or nonsense)'. Synonyms include "gobbledygook, mumbo jumbo.

glam – glamorous; wearing fashionable clothing and make-up, particularly when done to excess (positive connotation).

  • She's so glam that people think she's a model.
  • The actresses on the red carpet during the Oscar Awards were glam and covered with bling!

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Glam is short for glamorous. Glam and glamorous refer to the magical attraction and excitement produced by celebrities.

glued to your seat – to be intensely interested in something; to be so involved with something you cannot move (neutral connotation).

  • The movie was so scary I was glued to my seat from the very first scene.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Glue is a sticky substance that holds things together, so if you are "glued to your seat" you are stuck in your chair due to your great interest in what you are seeing or hearing.

go bananas – to go crazy; to be irrational and wild; to lose control (negative or positive connotation).

  • I am going to go bananas if I don't take a vacation soon.
  • I went bananas at the concert when Sting took the stage.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: When apes are given a bunch of bananas, they eat them with tremendous enthusiasm, as though they've lost their minds.

go off the deep end – to go too far with something; to do something unreasonable; to be extremely angry or enraged (negative connotation).

  • My mom has always collected dolls, but I'm afraid she's gone off the deep end – she buys ten dolls a day on eBay!
  • When the bank told me I had been a victim of identity fraud and had no money in my account, I went off the deep end.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Deep water can be dangerous can because one can drown, and this phrase refers to that danger, but in an emotional rather than physical sense.

goat – someone who is blamed when things go wrong (negative connotation).

  • Sarah made Michael the goat for the broken lamp.
  • The goalie was the goat in the 1-0 soccer match.

Etymology: Derived from biblical times. The slang "goat" is short for scapegoat which was a goat let loose in the wilderness on Yom Kippur after the high priest symbolically laid the sins of the people on its head. A "goat" is the opposite of a hero.

goof up – make a serious mistake (negative connotation).

  • I really goofed up when I painted my room green.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: A "goof" is a term meaning error or mistake.

grass – marijuana (a term from the 1960s - somewhat obsolete now) (neutral connotation).

  • Lots of students smoke grass in the dormitory.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

grub – basic, simple food (same meaning as "eats," see above entry) (positive connotation).

  • Where is the best place to get some grub around here?

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Grub is simple, earthy food, like carrots and potatoes grown underground where grubs (an insect) lives.

gut – (noun) is a large, flabby stomach (negative connotation).

  • He has a real gut on him.
  • She shouldn't wear a midriff – her gut hangs over her shorts!

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: The bowel or intestine.

guts – (noun) courage, valor; having the nerve to do something (positive connotation).

  • Jim had real guts to fight a man twice his size.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: "Intestinal fortitude" or courage.

hammered – drunk (negative connotation).

  • Jim had nine beers and now he's hammered.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: When you consider something that has been hammered, it has been flattened out or obliterated.

hang out – (verb) to pass time idly; to loaf with pleasure; at ease; (noun) hangout a place to relax, to lounge.

  • After the soccer game, we're all going to Beth's house to hang out.
  • We'll all leave soon. Just hang out for a couple more minutes.
  • Josie's beautiful new apartment has become a real hangout.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

have a prayer – to have a realistic chance of something happening; to be able to do something (negative connotation).

  • Eric doesn't have a prayer of passing the terminology exam today.
  • Do the White Sox have a prayer of winning the World Series?

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: When something is very difficult, you might pray for assistance. If something "has a prayer" it might succeed if it gets assistance from above, but if it is without a prayer (no divine intervention) no human measure will help.

have a screw loose – to be a little bit crazy or not acting normally (negative connotation).

  • Devon has had a screw loose ever since his wife left him.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: A screw keeps things together. When a screw is loose things fall apart, so a person who has a screw loose is falling apart mentally.

haywire – broken; in a state of chaos; not working (negative connotation).

  • Jack lost all of his work when his computer went haywire.
  • The T.V. screen all of a sudden began going haywire.

Etymology: Literally, haywire is what holds a bale of hay (cut grass) together. It frequently breaks, however, and when it does the wire tends to move very quickly in several directions, like a whip. The term haywire is used to describe anything that breaks in a crazy way.

head doctor – a psychiatrist; a doctor who helps people with mental problems (neutral connotation).

  • You seem emotionally disturbed. Maybe you should see a head doctor.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Psychiatrists are medical doctors who treat the mind, which is related to the brain, which is in the head.

head honcho – boss of very high stature (positive or neutral connotation).

  • The head honcho says that we are going to have to give up two days of our vacation and work overtime.
  • She's the head honcho at that facility.

Etymology: A honcho is a boss or leader. Honcho is of Japanese origin. Americans picked it up from Japanese troops they interacted with during World War II and the Korean War. "Head" honcho means someone even higher than a honcho, so a "big" boss.

high five – a way to say "bravo!" or "good job!" by slapping someone's hand in the air (positive connotation).

  • Nice shot! High five, dude!
  • High fives all around on the excellent presentation at the meeting.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: There are five fingers on your hand, and you lift your hand high into the air to give a "high five." This is a common gesture first used by African American basketball players and now used by many people in a variety of contexts. You can also give a "low five" or go "down low" after giving someone a high five.

high roller – someone who earns and spends a lot of money; a person who makes very large bets when gambling (positive connotation).

  • The $500 blackjack table in Monte Carlo is for high rollers only.
  • He acts like a high roller, but he really has no money to speak of.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Many gambling games involve rolling dice, and high roller refers to winning numbers and large sums of money.

hillbilly – a person from the country, typically with crude manners, speech and dress (negative or neutral connotation).

  • When I stepped onto his property, the hillbilly came out of his shack, grabbed his shotgun, and yelled "Yeehaw!"
  • Man, I love that hillbilly music!

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: This somewhat offensive term is used to describe poor people living in the hills of rural America - a hill is a small mountain and Billy is a common southern man's name.

hit – success (positive connotation).

  • Your proposal will be a hit with the boss.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

hit the road – to leave; to go home. Also used as a command meaning "go away" or "leave me alone" (neutral or negative connotation).

  • It's getting kind of late, so I'm going to hit the road.
  • Hit the road, bub. I'm not looking for a boyfriend.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: In this phrase, hit refers to the physical contact between your feet and the road (the pavement you walk or drive on).

hit the spot – a phrase meaning "that was really good" or "that was just what I needed" (positive connotation).

  • After working outside in the heat all day, a cool shower really hit the spot.
  • That lasagna hit the spot; I was starving!
  • I've been down for a while, and going to that comedy club really hit the spot.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: 'The spot refers to a need you might have like hunger. When you get some food, you have addressed or taken care of that need - or "hit the spot." The term is usually used for food and drink, but also for other kinds of pleasures, such as entertainment.

hog – (verb) to selfishly claim all of something; to eat or take everything (negative connotation); (noun) a Harley Davidson motorcycle; the biggest motorcycles built (positive connotation).

  • Peter hogged the food like he hadn't eaten in days.
  • Nicolas, don't hog the computer. Other people need to use it.
  • Joshua just bought a brand new hog, an Electra Glide Ultra Classic.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: The hog is the largest species of pig, and pigs are famous for selfishly consuming their food. As slang, the term can be used to describe any kind of selfish behavior. The Harley Davidson Motorcycle was knick-named "hog" due to their size and power.

hole in the wall – a small, simple place, particularly a shop or restaurant (positive connotation); can also mean a dumpy place, not well kept, not decorated (negative connotation).

  • Let's go to the Italian restaurant on Parker Street. It's just a hole in the wall, but the food is excellent.
  • Her new apartment is a real hole in the wall.

Etymology: This phrase has been used since the early 1800s. A hole is an empty space, and a wall is part of a building, so a hole in the wall is a simple, undecorated space in a building.

hoodie – a sweatshirt with a hood (neutral connotation).

  • Everybody is wearing hoodies instead of coats in the fall when it gets chilly.

Etymology: This is recent African American slang meaning a hooded sweatshirt. The hooded sweatshirt is very popular dress worn by rappers.

hoodlum – a criminal, a gangster (negative connotation).

  • The streets are a lot safer now that the police have arrested those hoodlums.
  • He and his friends are hoodlums and they're giving our neighborhood a bad reputation.

Etymology: A term for street tough in the U.S. The term originated in San Francisco in the mid to late 19th century from a local newspaper's rendering of a gang's call to fight, i.e., "huddle 'em." In later years, the term was often shortened to "hood," not to be confused with the shortened form of "neighborhood."

hooked – addicted (negative connotation); to like something so much you need it every day (positive connotation).

  • I'm really hooked on the hamburgers at the Penny Café.
  • The patient desperately stated, "I'm hooked on crack – I need help!"

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: A hook is a curved piece of metal used to catch something, like a fishhook. If you are hooked on something, it has caught you and won't let go. This term was originally used by drug addicts to describe the feeling of needing drugs and now is used to describe anything that is so good that you want it every day.

hooked up with WIC - has met all the eligibility requirements for the Women, Infant and Children assistance program

  • The patient said,” I couldn’t take the medication on time as I was hooked up with WIC.”

Etymology: Origin unknown.

hottie – a physically beautiful, attractive person (positive connotation).

  • My boyfriend is a hottie.
  • When George and Bill went to the new dance club, they were surrounded by hotties.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Comes from looking "hot" (attractive, attention drawing).

hung up on – to be obsessed about something or someone.

  • I'm really hung up on the new designer jeans by Calvin Klein. (positive connotation)
  • I'm really hung on Anna – I can't get her out of my mind. (positive connotation)
  • I'm really hung up on this math problem and I can't go to bed until I've solved it. (negative connotation)

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: If you are hung up on something, you are caught and cannot move freely. Hung is from hang, which means to attach from above or to suspend, so whatever you are hung up on, it has you on its hook, at its mercy, and you're swinging helplessly, like a fish pulled from the ocean.

hush-hush – very secret (neutral connotation).

  • Let's keep this conversation hush-hush, okay?
  • My aunt is reluctant to give out her recipes and keeps them all hush-hush.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Hush means quiet, so something that is hush-hush should not be discussed or exposed in public. This phrase dates back to World War I when it referred to military secrets.

hype – loud advertising and promotion (neutral or negative connotation).

  • The new movie by Steven Spielberg is getting a lot of hype.
  • Don't believe the hype!

Etymology: In the early 1800s, a hype was a scam or swindle. A scam is a false story or trick through which someone tries to get money from other people. Modern advertising has the same objective as old-time scams: to separate people from their money, while using as much "hype" as possible.

hyped up – excited, enthusiastic (positive connotation).

  • The fans were all hyped up for the football game.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

icky – displeasing, disgusting, unappealing (childhood slang) (negative connotation).

  • The little girl stated, "Boys are icky."
  • Your kitchen is so icky! Why don't you clean it up?

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: The word may be derived from sticky, which describes something that attaches itself to you in an unwanted and unpleasant way.

idiot box – a television (also, "boob tube") (negative connotation).

  • My father always complains to my mother that the children watch the idiot box much too often.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: This phrase indicates the constant outpouring of idiocy from a television suggesting that if you spend too much time looking at the box (television), you'll become an idiot.

iffy – uncertain or doubtful; questionable (negative connotation).

  • It's iffy whether or not we'll meet our deadline.
  • The picnic may be cancelled, because the weather is pretty iffy.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Slang word based on "if."

in a bind – in a bad situation; in trouble (also, "in a jam") (negative connotation).

  • I'm in a bind to pay my electric bill, because I don't get paid until next week.
  • I'm in a bind and won't be able to make it tonight -- my car is in the shop for repairs!

Etymology: Bind means to tie or to secure. The phrase originated in the timber industry when a lumberjack cut down a tree and got his saw stuck in the wood. It was considered in a bind or trapped in the wood.

in a funk – depressed or upset (negative connotation).

  • This winter weather really has me in a funk.
  • Holly is in a funk about her new haircut. She thinks it is much too short.

Etymology: Derived from the Flemish word "fonck" meaning disturbed or agitated.

in my hair – bothering, constantly annoying someone again and again (negative connotation).

  • I told the kids to go outside and play. They were in my hair all morning!
  • I tried to get the project done, by the account manager was in my hair for a week.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: It can be difficult to remove something that is caught in your hair. For example, if you get chewing gum in your hair it can take hours to get it out and it's very annoying to do. If a person is "in your hair," they are annoying and hard to get rid of.

in the doghouse – in trouble; the object of anger or scorn (negative connotation).

  • Tom was in the doghouse after he was late for dinner with his wife's parents.
  • My report was late, and now I'm in the doghouse with my boss.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: A doghouse is a small hut or house in the yard where a pet dog is sent. When you are "in the doghouse," the phrase means that someone is angry with you and thinks you should be punished (by being treated like a bad dog).

in the slammer – in jail; behind the locked doors of a prison (negative connotation).

  • Joel spent a few years in the slammer for robbing a store.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: The phrase refers to the closing of a door. When a door is slammed it means that it was closed with great force.

John Doe/Jane Doe – an unidentified man/woman or the average American man/woman (neutral connotation).

  • The corpse has not yet been identified, so the toe tag reads "John Doe."
  • This advertising campaign appeals to the John and Jane Does of America.

Etymology: This term (or name) has been used for hundreds of years to refer to a typical, average man or woman, particularly in legal cases or in reference to unidentified dead bodies. Both Jane and John are very common American names.

jerk – a mean or unlikable person; someone who thinks of himself only (negative connotation).

  • Tony is such a jerk! He told me he would give me a ride but left right after class.
  • Don't be a jerk. Throw your trash in the garbage can and not on the ground.

Etymology: The slang term jerk, meaning "a stupid person," first appeared in 1919 and became popular in the 1930s, when it was coined to mean eccentric fellow or fool.

jock – an athlete, particularly a male athlete; usually used to describe someone who is good at sports but not so good at school (neutral or negative connotation).

  • Kenny is a real jock – he plays football, baseball, basketball and hockey.

Etymology: The term comes from jockstrap, which is an athletic supporter (tight underwear) worn by many men when they are involved in sports.

jump ship – to leave your job; to abandon a situation or circumstance (negative connotation).

  • When the company announced its fiscal loss, many of its employees jumped ship.
  • Adrian couldn't handle the relationship anymore and decided to jump ship.
  • Burt's affiliation with this not-for-profit organization was so utterly time consuming, he jumped ship.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: When you jump ship, you flee (or leave) the boat by leaping over the side.

jumpy – nervous or apprehensive; afraid that something bad will happen (negative connotation).

  • I am always a little bit jumpy when I walk by the graveyard at night.
  • She does not like to fly and was a little jumpy before her flight.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: To jump means to move into the air by springing or leaping up, so someone who is jumpy is on the edge of leaping into the air in surprise or fear.

junk food – food that has little or no nutritional value, usually high in fat and calories; however, very appealing to the taste buds (negative or positive connotation).

  • If you want to lose weight, stop eating so much junk food.
  • McDonald's is my favorite junk food.
  • He's a junk food junkie!

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Junk refers to worthless objects that are sometimes favored and collected, so junk food is food that has no nutritional value for your body but may nonetheless be desired.

kick your ass – to beat decisively; to give a severe beating (improper, vulgar slang) (negative connotation).

  • Don't mess with the bouncer unless you want him to kick your ass!

Etymology: Origin unknown.

klutz – a clumsy person; an awkward or physically incompetent individual (negative connotation).

  • I used my fine crystal and china, but I wouldn't dare let Christina set the table because she's such a klutz.

Etymology: From the Yiddish word "klots" meaning blockhead -- a stupid person.

knocked up – to become pregnant (negative connotation).

  • She was so promiscuous, she was knocked up at the age of 17.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

know-it-all – an arrogant person; a person who thinks they know everything; someone who annoys others by always having the answer to every question (negative connotation).

  • I wish he'd stop being such a know-it-all and give someone else a chance to give an opinion.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: To know refers to what is in your brain, and all is everything, so a know-it-all has everything in his brain -- or at least thinks he does.

knuckle sandwich – a punch in the mouth (negative connotation).

  • Joanne gave Simon a knuckle sandwich when she caught him looking at other girls.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: A sandwich is an assortment of food between two pieces of bread, and knuckles are the bones in your hand, so a knuckle sandwich implies a fist in the mouth.

kooky – crazy; mentally unbalance (negative connotation).

  • I realized Neal was kooky when I saw him jump naked into a public pool.

Etymology: Derived from the word cuckoo, an old English word for crazy, possibly referring to the strange cry of the cuckoo bird.

la-la land – an unreal place; a fantasy; a dream world (negative connotation).

  • She thinks marriage is la-la land, but now that she's engaged, she will soon realize that a spouse and children require much work.
  • He's living in la-la land if he thinks those prices won't go up.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: La-la sounds childlike and dreamy, so la-la land is a dream world without adult problems and concerns.

love handles – unsightly fat that shows from the sides at the waist (negative connotation).

  • I need to exercise more – my love handles are showing!

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Fat at the waist sometimes forms handles or grips that a lover could grab and hold onto.

low life – a person with bad habits, a questionable character, or a questionable lifestyle; someone who does not amount to much in society (negative connotation).

  • Don't lend Bill any more money – he's a low life and he'll never pay you back.
  • I don't understand how they could have let such a low life out of prison.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Comes from a lower life form; an insect, a bug.

luck of the draw – according to fate or chance (neutral connotation).

  • Your guess is as good as mine– it's the luck of the draw.
  • Everyone else's computer works just fine, but mine is broken. I guess that's just the luck of the draw.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: When playing cards, you draw a hand, which means that you get a random set of cards. The cards that are dealt are called the draw, so the luck of the draw refers to the good or bad results produced by a random process.

Mickey Mouse – nonsense and waste of time (negative connotation).

  • We don’t have time for these Mickey-Mouse games. Let's get some real work done!

Etymology: A 1950s television cartoon with the main character, Mickey Mouse, which was a show about silly childhood antics.

making a concerted effort – trying very hard

  • The patient made a concerted effort to survive.

Etymology: derived from the word ‘Concert’ – which is a union of musicians playing a tune in harmony.

moola or moolah – money (neutral connotation).

  • I took a lot of moola to the casino, but when I returned I was broke.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

mosey along/mosey over/mosey in – to walk slowly and casually (neutral, positive or negative connotation).

  • Let's mosey along our merry way and get an ice cream.
  • After dinner, I think I'll mosey over to the living room to watch some TV.
  • Are you crazy? You can't just mosey in here two hours late for work!

Etymology: This word is cowboy slang that is still used today. It is derived from an old British expression mose about, which means to walk with a slouch.

mug – the face (negative connotation).

  • He has a mug that only a mother could love.
  • Get your mug out of my face.
  • He was taken to the police department for finger printing and a mug shot.

Etymology: In the old days, beer glasses would sometimes have human faces on them, and mug can refer to a face or a drinking cup. A related term is mug shot, which is a photo of the face made when the police arrest one.

mystery meat – animal flesh that has been cooked so long and so badly that it cannot be identified; an unappealing food item (negative connotation).

  • Oh no… it looks like mystery meat is on the menu again!

Etymology: A disparaging term for ground meat products such as kebabs, Salisbury steak, or any similarly prepared ground meat patty that comprises the main course of an American public school lunch, often served with gravy. This type of meat acquired the name because it is often difficult to identify its primary ingredient.

nailed – to find or catch someone doing something wrong (negative connotation); to hit something right on target (positive connotation).

  • He was speeding at 95 mph and got nailed by the traffic cop.
  • After three years of counterfeiting treasury bonds, the FBI nailed the crime ring.
  • His presentation nailed it on conserving energy, and they signed the contract this afternoon.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: As in driving a nail with a hammer, the term was coined to suggest tacking something down with precision.

nerd – an overly intellectual person with poor social skills; an unfashionable and unpopular person (negative connotation).

  • I like Jacob even though he is a bit of a nerd.

Etymology: The word comes from a children's book written by Dr. Seuss.

no-brainer – something that is perfectly obvious; easy to do; requiring very little effort (neutral connotation).

  • Understanding the next step of the project was a no-brainer.
  • For me, algebra is a no-brainer, however, trigonometry poses a challenge.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

not my cup of tea – something not to your liking; something you don't like to do (negative connotation).

  • Some people love football, but it's not my cup of tea. I prefer soccer.
  • Do I like Brittany Spears? No, that kind of music is not my cup of tea.

Etymology: This is a 19th century British phrase.

nuke – to cook or re-heat food in a microwave; a nuclear warhead or missile, or the act of using a nuclear warhead or missile (neutral or negative connotation).

  • Frozen food is so easy – just nuke it for two minutes and you're ready to eat!
  • Although the Cold War is over, there is still a threat that terrorists might nuke us all back to the Stone Age.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Refers to the powerful and possibly deadly effects of 'nuclear' devices, such as reactors and bombs.

on cloud nine – to be extremely happy, elated (positive connotation).

  • Chris just won a million dollars so he's on cloud nine.
  • I was on cloud nine after I got the promotion.

Etymology: The International Cloud Atlas defines ten types of clouds. The ninth cloud is the cumulo-nimbus rising to a height of 10 km, which is the highest a cloud can be. There is, however, no good evidence to support this.

on the same wavelength – sharing a common understanding; thinking the same thing as another person (positive connotation).

  • They both knew they'd be friends forever, because they were on the same wavelength the moment they met.
  • When Joshua was able to explain the difficult chemistry formula, Samuel was one of the few students who was on the same wavelength.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Wavelength refers to an electronic signal, like an audio or television signal. If two people are sharing a single wavelength, they are sending and receiving the same messages.

one foot in the grave – close to death; a person who is or appears to be nearly dead (negative, dark comical connotation)

  • Ma says Pa has one foot in the grave, so we probably should start planning his funeral.
  • He has emphysema and still smokes… he has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel!

Etymology: This phrase dates back to the 1600s, and its meaning is fairly straightforward.

out like a light – to fall asleep very quickly (neutral connotation).

  • When I lay down, I was out like a light after my long drive home last night.

outta' here – a phrase indicating that someone is leaving (neutral connotation).

  • At five o'clock on the nose, I'm outta' here.

Etymology: This slang comes from the phrase "out of here."

pack heat (or packin') – to carry a gun (neutral connotation).

  • Be careful when you're out late at night in this neighborhood. You never know who might be packing heat.
  • Before the gangster boss would see him, he made sure he wasn't packin'.

Etymology: "Heater" is slang for gun, and "pack" means to put away or conceal, so when you "pack heat" you conceal a gun on your body.

pain in the neck – annoying (negative connotation).

  • My wife's best friend is a pain in the neck.
  • Telephone salesmen are a pain in the neck.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

pass out – to fall asleep from exhaustion or from drinking too much, to faint (neutral or negative connotation).

  • Burt was so tired when got home that he passed out on his bed with all of his clothes on.
  • Nadia has an alcohol problem in that she tends to drink until she passes out.
  • The patient reports that she passed out on a bus while standing in the aisle.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Pass refers to movement from one place to another, and out refers to someplace other than here. When you pass out you move from normal consciousness to unconsciousness.

peace out – a friendly way to say goodbye (positive connotation).

  • I'm leaving now – peace out.

Etymology: The term "Peace" as a greeting started being used in the 1960s. Out comes from a standard way of finishing a conversation on a two-way radio – "over and out."

penny pincher – cheap, stingy person who rarely spend money (negative connotation).

  • Megan never goes to restaurants because she's such a penny pincher.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Refers to someone who squeezes every last bit of value from money to the point of being stingy.

people person – someone who likes being with other people and who is good at working with people (positive connotation).

  • Holly is a great stewardess – she's a real people person.
  • Jane is not a people person. Luckily, her job does not require her to spend a lot of time with other employees or clients.

Etymology: This term became popular in the 1990s. It was first used in corporations as a way to describe friendly people who are good at sales and customer service.

phat – excellent, cool, the greatest (positive connotation).

  • That skateboard is so phat! It has great speed and color.

Etymology: Phat is an African American slang version of fat which has become very popular in the last few years. The use of fat to describe something that is good goes back to the 1500s and was derived from the idea that the fat in a cow's milk is the best part of it.

pig out – to eat large amounts of food quickly and without good manners; to overeat (negative connotation); to be hungry and look forward to satisfying your appetite (positive connotation).

  • The pizza is here. Let's pig out!
  • At the game, we pigged out on hamburgers and French fries.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Pigs are famous for enthusiastically eating enormous quantities of food, so when a person pigs out, they eat much like a pig.

pipe down – to stop talking, to lower the volume; frequently used as a command to be quiet (negative connotation).

  • Hey kids! Pipe down in there… your mother is on the phone.
  • When he angrily protested, his boss told him that he had better pipe down or the conversation would be terminated.

Etymology: In the old days in the British navy, musical pipes were used to send messages to the crew. The last pipe message of the day was called "pipe down," and it signaled that the pipe was being put down for the night, be quiet and go to bed.

pitch in – to contribute to a group effort or common undertaking; to participate in a team activity (neutral connotation).

  • Could you please pitch in and help get these dishes cleaned up?
  • The camp counselor instructed everyone on our team to pitch in and gather wood for the bonfire later that night.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

(to get) psyched up or psyched – mentally ready; very excited (positive connotation).

  • The players are really psyched up for the game on Friday.
  • I am so psyched about going to Italy for three months!
  • My final exam was coming up, and I really had to get myself psyched up to study.

Etymology: In ancient Greek, psyche was the symbol of the human soul or spirit. When you are psyched, your spirit is in an elevated state. In other words, you are very excited.

pump iron – to lift weights; exercising to build muscle mass (positive connotation).

  • Every Saturday morning, Bridget goes to the YWCA to pump iron.
  • Look at his pecs! You can tell he's been pumping iron.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: The weights that a bodybuilder lifts are made of iron or some other heavy material. A pump is a device that moves water through repetitive motion, So the phrase "pump iron" describes the act of lifting weights again and again.

quick buck – fast and easy profit; money made in a short period of time (neutral or negative connotation).

  • Are you interested in making a long-term investment or in turning a quick buck?

  • He won't be a salesman for long at this company; he's only interested in making a quick buck.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Buck is slang for a dollar bill.

raise the roof – to have fun and make a lot of noise (positive connotation).

  • We're going to raise the roof at Stephanie's party tonight!
  • The band raised the roof with one great song after another.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

ride shotgun – to sit in the front passenger seat of a vehicle (positive connotation).

  • The kids always argue about who will ride shotgun when we go to the mall.
  • Tony was driving, I was riding shotgun, and Paul and Joe were in the back seat.

Etymology: The first known reference to "riding shotgun" referred to riding as an armed guard in the front of a stagecoach, and years later the term referred to automobiles in the TV series Gunsmoke nearly weekly. In contemporary tradition, in order to claim the seat, one must "call shotgun" according to some set of informal rules. To call shotgun is, at minimum, to yell out "shotgun" while approaching the vehicle.

road rage – anger toward other drivers experienced while driving a car in heavy traffic (negative connotation).

  • In California, the police blamed the shooting on road rage.
  • I never drive with him! He can't go anywhere without exhibiting road rage!

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: This term has become popular in the last few years as more and more people spend many hours each day just driving to work and home again.

rookie – a beginner; one who is new to a profession or field (neutral or negative connotation).

  • The coach put him in the first half, even though he was a rookie.
  • The more seasoned players taught the rookie their skills.
  • We can't bring him to this important meeting. He's just a rookie!

Etymology: This word is derived from 'recruit', a new member of an army.

rug rat – a young child; a toddler (neutral or negative connotation).

  • I've got three rug rats at home, ages 2, 3 and 5.
  • Her kid is a real snot-nose rug rat.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Small children are often placed on a carpet to crawl around.

sad – of poor quality; inferior (negative connotation).

  • Your car is in sad shape – you really need to take it to a mechanic.
  • Detroit is one sad town.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: As slang, the word describes things rather than people.

screw up – to make a major mistake; one who makes mistakes regularly, a failure (negative connotation).

  • Billy screwed up the whole project and now we're four weeks behind schedule.
  • Be careful when working with Charlie on a team – he's a real screw up.

Etymology: This phrase comes from World War II US Army slang.

shoot from the hip – to speak or act bluntly or rashly, without deliberation or prudence (neutral or negative connotation).

  • Bob wasn’t prepared for the impromptu meeting, so he just shot from the hip regarding the new clothing line this fall.
  • Diplomats are trained to conduct themselves with discretion and not shoot from the hip.

Etymology: The term is coined from gunslingers, who had to act quickly and draw their pistols fast from the holster around their hip.

shoot hoops – to play basketball, particularly in a casual way (positive connotation).

  • To unwind, Joanne and I like to shoot hoops after work.
  • The same kids shoot hoops at the park everyday.

Etymology: The term specifically refers to the sport of basketball because the ball is thrown ("shooting") into the goal, which is a large metal hoop surrounding by mesh suspended at the top of a large pole.

shopaholic – a person who is addicted to shopping or someone who enjoys shopping regularly (neutral or negative connotation)

  • I love Saturday afternoons when I can be a total shopaholic at the mall!
  • He's a shopaholic when it comes to home improvement centers.

sitting duck – an easy target; someone or something who is defenseless, vulnerable or in a precarious situation (negative connotation).

  • The sweet old lady was a sitting duck for a pickpocket.
  • Out in the open field, the soldiers were sitting ducks for enemy snipers.

Etymology: This phrase alludes to the ease with which a hunter can shoot a duck that remains in one spot, in contrast to one in flight. This term was first used by soldiers in World War II.

snail mail – letters sent through the post office; mail that is carried as opposed to email (negative connotation).

  • I wondered why I hadn't received the instructions yet, and then found out Pattie had sent them snail mail.

Etymology: Origin is new since the advent of the Internet. A snail is a very slow-moving creature. This slang phrase mocks the slowness of regular mail and implicitly compares it to the speed of e-mail.

space cadet – one who shows difficulty in grasping reality or in responding appropriately to it; someone who is generally unaware, or not paying attention, or out of touch with reality (synonymous with airhead) (negative connotation).

  • Suzanne is a real space cadet – I don't think she even knows what day it is.

Etymology: Comes from someone demonstrating only the "fringe elements" as in space or the fringes of the atmosphere.

spork – an eating utensil that serves as both a spoon and a fork (neutral connotation).

  • The waitress gave me a spork to eat the chowder.
  • The fast-food restaurant always gives you a Spork with your refried beans.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: A spork is round like a spoon with tines like a fork.

square – a plain, boring person; someone who is out of touch with the latest trends (negative connotation).

  • You know a dance club has lost its edge when the squares start showing up.
  • Don't invite him to the party – he's a square.

Etymology: This sense of square comes from jazz musicians in the 1920s. When a conductor wanted his orchestra to play in straight 4/4 time, he would snap his fingers in the air and make the shape of a square. Many jazz musicians thought that this time and rhythm pattern was boring, and began to call boring musicians "squares."

stool pigeon – an informant; one who discloses secret or vital information (negative connotation).

  • The police would never have found him if a stool pigeon hadn't revealed his hiding place.

Etymology: Gangsters in New York started using this phrase in the 1920s. Earlier, in the 1800s, hunters would attach a pigeon (a kind of bird) to a stool (or stand) to act as a decoy, so that other birds would come close and could then be killed. The stool pigeon was used to deceive other birds. Among criminals, the stool pigeon is the one who is actually working for the police, deceiving the other criminals.

street pizza – an animal that has been run over and killed by a car; any disgusting substance that is on the ground (obviously a negative connotation).

  • Maura's pet turtle escaped last week and I'm afraid it's probably street pizza by now.

Etymology: Pizza is a popular food that is flat and has lots of red tomato sauce. This phrase is a comical reference to unpleasant organic materials that are found on roads and sidewalks.

sugar daddy – a man who gives a woman money and gifts, usually as part of a romantic relationship (positive or negative connotation).

  • My sugar daddy bought me a car!
  • She doesn't have to work – she has a sugar daddy.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Daddy is another term for father, but in this phrase "daddy" refers to any man who takes care of a woman. And sugar is slang for sweet gifts. A sugar daddy is a man who gives lots of enjoyable things, like cars and diamonds and money. The term has also been used about women who take care of men in the same way (sugar mamma).

sweet tooth – a great love for candy and sugar (positive connotation).

  • Louise has quite a sweet tooth – she ate 4 candy bars in one hour!

Etymology: This is an old phrase, dating back to the 1300s. In the phrase, 'tooth' refers to appetite or the thing that is chewed, rather than the tooth itself.

tag along – to follow someone around; or, the person who follows someone around (negative connotation).

  • If you're going to get some coffee, do you mind if I tag along?
  • My little brother is such a tag-along – he follows me everywhere!

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: A tag is a piece of paper that hangs from something - for example, there is a tag on a new pair of pants to tell you how much they cost. Someone who is a tag along is metaphorically "affixed" to the person they are following.

test the waters – to make a judgment about something before engaging in more involved activity; to evaluate a situation before committing to a course of action.

  • We thought we'd test the waters before committing to a serious relationship.
  • We tested the waters and found that there is a great demand for our product.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Before drinking water from a water source, it is wise to make sure that the water is safe and clean. So you test or evaluate the water before you actually drink it.

throw the book at – to impose a severe penalty on someone; to give the maximum penalty for a crime (negative connotation).

  • The judge told my lawyer that he is going to throw the book at me unless I beg the court for mercy.
  • This is his second offense for the same crime – they're going to throw the book at him!

Etymology: "The book" is the entire collection of laws and penalties indicating that if a judge were to throw or hurl the whole book of laws at someone, it would probably hurt quite a bit.

ticker – the heart (neutral connotation).

  • Try not to upset grandpa when you talk to him – he has a bad ticker.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Your heart beats regularly (ticks), like a clock.

tightie whities – men's underwear; bikini-like underwear that clings to the body usually mentioned in a mocking fashion (negative connotation).

  • Which do you prefer, tightie whities or boxer shorts?

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: This term is used to describe the type of small, tight underwear some men wear, as opposed to the larger, looser kind called boxers.

too hot to handle – difficult; hard to deal with; controversial; out of one's league (negative connotation).

  • The editor thought the story about the president's girlfriend was too hot to handle, so he refused to print it.
  • He shouldn't try to date her – she's too hot to handle.

Etymology: Too hot to handle comes from baseball, referring to a ball hit so hard that it can't be caught. In this phrase, hot means lively or powerful, and handle means take care of or pick up. The phrase is now used to describe any situation that is hard to deal with or problematic.

total – completely wrecked or destroyed; in insurance claims, a total (noun) is property beyond repair (negative connotation).

  • The insurance company estimated the car as a total.
  • I did so much yard work this weekend I was totaled.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

tripping (trippin') – to be under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD; to make a foolish statement; to say something silly or stupid (negative connotation).

  • Jonathan took some kind of drug and now he's tripping.
  • When Leah told me she thought the paper was written well, I exclaimed "are you trippin'!" "There were spelling errors and incomplete sentences all throughout the text!"

Etymology: In the 1960s, many young people used mind-altering drugs in America, and some people referred to their drug experiences as trips (or journeys). Today the word is usually used in jest to describe a foolish statement. When someone says something stupid or silly, you might say, "you must be tripping."

Uncle Sam – the U.S. government; a patriotic figure who symbolizes the United States (neutral, negative, or positive connotation).

  • July 4th is Independence Day in the United States. Happy birthday Uncle Sam!
  • No matter how much money I make in a year, Uncle Sam will always take a big chunk.

Etymology: During the War of 1812 between the United States and England, a man named Samuel Wilson provided supplies to the American troops. Wilson was known as "Uncle Sam," and he stamped his supplies with 'US', which stood for both United States and Uncle Sam. Since then, "Uncle Sam" has been a symbol for the country, especially in times of war.

up for grabs – freely available; ready to be taken (neutral connotation).

  • After Mr. Mortimer passed away, no one could find his will, so his estate is up for grabs.
  • The team working on this problem could not figure it out, so if any other team wants it, it's up for grabs.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: When you grab something, you reach for it very quickly. When something is up for grabs, it is out in the open, waiting to be grabbed by whoever wants it.

up your sleeve – a hidden advantage; some form of trickery lying in wait (negative or positive connotation).

  • Be careful doing business with Mickey – he's always got something up his sleeve.
  • The inpatient teenager fidgeted by the door. Mom asked, "What do you have up your sleeve now?"
  • Eric said, "don't worry about the meeting with our client; I've got something up my sleeve that will take care of their problem."

Etymology: This is one of many slang phrases derived from gambling. When a card player has an ace up his sleeve he is hiding an extra card (usually a powerful one like an ace), waiting to use it to win a hand. Now the phrase refers to any kind of hidden strength or advantage.

veg out – to spend time relaxing, doing nothing at all (positive connotation).

  • I'm going to the mountains to veg out for a couple of days.
  • After the long workweek, I'm going to veg out in front of the TV.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: "Veg" being short for vegetable suggests becoming like a vegetable - without thought or motion.

VIP – very important person – a phrase used to describe powerful people in business, politics, sports, or entertainment (positive connotation).

  • The cameras started flashing as soon as the VIP arrived.
  • I will meet you in the VIP lounge at the airport.

Etymology: This acronym stands for the first letters of Very Important Person; pronounced 'vee eye pee' not "vip"

wacko – (noun) crazy person (negative connotation).

  • There are some real wackos roaming the streets at night in that neighborhood.
  • Some reporters say that the famous pop singer is a wacko.

Etymology: The term "wacko" is derived from the idiom "out of whack" meaning to whack something and miss such as with a clever or mallet. The slang term "whacked out" means improperly ordered or balanced; not functioning correctly; not in proper condition.

walking on eggshells – to be in a delicate situation; to be on the edge of danger or ruin (negative connotation).

  • Ever since I wrecked the car, I've been walking on eggshells with my parents.
  • We're walking on eggshells with our landlord – she told us that if we have one more loud party, she's going to kick us out of our apartment.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: This term indicates the delicacy that one might step in order to not break eggshells, which is actually an impossibility suggesting that someone is in a very precarious situation requiring great agility and carefulness. If you are "walking on eggshells," you are in a situation where you could ruin everything very easily. Synonymous with "walking on thin ice."

watered down – weakened or diluted; something that has been made less powerful or less effective (negative connotation).

  • The movie is a watered down version of the book.
  • This section of the overall plan is watered down – we can't use it.
  • Tipsy McStagger's is a pretty good pub, but the bartender waters down the drinks.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: If you want to dilute the concentrate of a solution, you add water to it.

welch – to fail to pay for a debt; to fail to do something you promise to do (negative connotation).

  • He lost the pool game to me and now he has welched on our bet.
  • Bonnie told Katherine she'd cover her shift but welched on the day of work.

Etymology: Although the origins of this word are unknown, it might be an old slur against people from Wales in Great Britain, implying that people from that region (the Welsh) don't pay their debts.

whiz – talented person (positive connotation)

  • He’s a real computer whiz.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

wig out – to go crazy; to display anxiety or wild excitement; to be overcome with emotion (negative connotation).

  • With four teenagers in the house, Maria wigged out when she got the telephone bill.
  • The C.E.O. wigged out when he learned that his company was under investigation for mail fraud.

Etymology: The origin comes from an adaptation of "flip your wig" or "flip your lid."

wimp – a weak or fearful person; someone who lacks courage (negative connotation).

  • Don't be such a wimp – it's only a spider!
  • I was too much of a wimp to play sports in high school.

Etymology: A clipped form of "whimper" (a small cry of pain or fear).

windbag – a boring person who talks too much, typically denoting an old person (negative connotation).

  • Joe's speech was over an hour long at the meeting. His coworkers think he's a windbag.
  • At the nursing home, Gladys is considered a windbag – she never stops talking.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

wishy-washy – indecisive or not reliable (negative connotation).

  • If you want immediate action to solve this problem, don't ask Mark. He's wishy-washy.
  • Rose was always wishy-washy about our plans to get married, so I'm not surprised that she ran away the day before our wedding.

Etymology: A reduplication of "washy" (thin, watery); vacillating.

wrong side of the tracks – the poor part of town (negative connotation).

  • Chris came from the wrong side of the tracks but worked hard and smart and eventually had a successful life.
  • I know she's attractive, but don't get involved – she comes from the wrong side of the tracks.

Etymology: In many American cities, the neighborhoods where poor people live are typically on one side of a city's railroad tracks, close to factories and sources of pollution.

wuss – a coward; an ineffectual, timid person (negative connotation).

  • Don't be a wuss – go ask her for a date!
  • You're afraid of the dark? What are you, some kind of wuss!

Etymology: A common popular term with teenage boys since the 1960s.

yap – the mouth; to talk aimlessly (negative connotation).

  • There he goes again; yapping away at the dinner table.
  • Shut your yap! We're sick of your boring stories.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Yap is the sound a little dog or other small animal makes. When someone talks too much, he can sound like a barking (or yapping) dog.

yawner – something that is boring or completely uninteresting (negative connotation).

  • The film was a real yawner. I fell asleep after the first twenty minutes.
  • I don't like going to lunch with her; her conversations are such yawners.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: A yawn (when you open your mouth and take a deep breath) is a physiologic reaction that occurs when the body becomes relaxed, fatigued or bored.

yuppie – a young person who works in business, makes lots of money, and buys luxury items (neutral or negative connotation).

  • Tom is a classic yuppie – he has an expensive car, an expensive house, and an expensive wife.

Etymology: Comes from the first letters of the phrase 'Young Urban Professional. This phrase was coined in the U.S. in the 1980s when the economy changed (improved) and young, educated people began earning an annual salary as much as their parents did after having worked their entire lives.

zapped – exhausted (negative connotation).

  • Everyone was too zapped to help me.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

zillionaire – a very, very rich person (neutral or negative connotation).

  • John hopes to be a zillionaire someday, just like Bill Gates.
  • You have to be a zillionaire to afford an apartment in Manhattan.

Etymology: Origin unknown. Base meaning: Since it rhymes with million and billion, zillion sounds huge, although it's not really a number. A zillionaire is like a millionaire or a billionaire but with even more money.

zip – nothing (negative connotation).

  • He knew zip about running a company.
  • The score of last night's hockey game was 4-zip.

Etymology: Of unknown origin, but means zero, nil.

zone out – to lose all concentration; to slip out of normal consciousness and have nothing on your mind (neutral or negative connotation).

  • After working on a document for four hours straight, I zoned out in front of my computer.
  • Right in the middle of our dinner conversation, Ruth seemed to zone out, although after the day she's had with the kids, I certainly understood.

Etymology: Origin unknown.

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