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Dictionary Of Phrase & Fable

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  722 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
Celebrating the 125th anniversary of its original publication, this expanded and updated edition of a classic reference features a new, simplified organization.
Hardcover, 1324 pages
Published December 12th 1988 by Random House Value Publishing (first published 1870)
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Various editions of this book are available online in digitized form. But that shouldn't stop you from getting your own physical copy. Nothing can rival the joy of browsing through it - you're bound to learn something fascinating along the way. As Terry Pratchett says in the Foreword, it's a storehouse of "little parcels of serendipitous information of a kind that are perhaps of no immediate use, but which are, nevertheless very good for the brain."

First published in 1870, Brewer's has flourishe
Dec 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Five stars, even with some reservations.

Brewer's Dictionary is a gem, full of obscure facts, observations about the history of phrases and stories and icons and references. The English language and culture is a fascinating potpourri, bringing together fascinating aspects of our own culture and many others from many centuries. Our current vocabulary is a chain linking us to the many generations past, and it's great to have Brewer - or, now, his cultural descendants - elucidating this for us.

I hav
Jul 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While we're at it, I cannot live without this book. It's the place to go if you want to find out the significance of a golden apple or the difference between a faun and a satyr. (And let's face it, who doesn't?).
Sep 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone with a love of mythology and refrence boks
This is absolutely my desert island book, there's no book like it. Granted reference books and mythology are two passions of mine, so this is always going to get me...but there really is nothing like this book. Randomly open the pages and you find out the names of famous mythological creatures, infamous characters through out history and the occasional curious saying. The amount of things from this book that goes into my stories, or is the beginning of some crazy bit of research that end up beco ...more
Regina Hunter
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable is a newer version to previous editions and I dare say much heavier. It is not only a valuable source of previous century and old tales and reference, no this edition was updated to accommodate to new changes. I might add that it has a great deal of Latin phrases which promotes learning of given subject. I would recommend it to general literature use, if not sure who or what specific item means, this book is IT. Like most books, this book did not have a me ...more
Mar 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference
How can you not love this book? And, I must note, that Brewer's is quite a bit more informative than the Oxford dictionary of the same name. Brewer's seems, at least, to have fewer things of general knowledge (meaning I came across more things that I didn't know) and had more well-written entries. Brewer's avoids Oxford's habit of assuming the reader knows the meaning of the colloquial express it's trying to describe.
Dec 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference
This book really is a must have. Have you ever wondered who Zeno was? Or where the phrase, 'to swing a cat' came from? Life and literature are full of references to phrases and fables that I'm never totally sure of. But this is also a fun book to just pick up and flick through.

Possibly not a book to read from cover to cover, but a joy nonetheless.
Robert Stewart
Sep 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book. I have an older edition and it's falling apart of the use it gets. It's great fun to just browse Brewer's, but what's uncanny is how many times I've come across some obscure reference (usually something British) and Brewer's has an entry! It's like an early Wikipedia, but quirkier.

Every home should have one!
Dec 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Before there was the internet any serious English major would have had a copy of Bartlett's on her shefl for reference. I love to page though my copy, a water-stained paperback from the 80's that's missing a few pages. Reading it is a like a choose-your-own adventure for mythologies and popular culture.
Thom Dunn
Mine is the 1981 Centenary Edition, Revised.
This is possibly the most fun "pick up and browse" book around.
This is one of those reference works that I could just read for hours. I'm such a geek.
Ellen B.
Aug 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This is my favorite reference book ever ever ever.
Sally Edsall
May 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must-have reference book for every shelf. Contains answers to the most arcane questions you might ask - be they profound or prosaic. Entries range from the derivation of well-known colloquial phrases to lengthy entries on figures from mythology, as well as origins of superstitions and beliefs. First published, we are told on the dust jacket, in 1870. Why is Britain sometimes called Albion? A possible explanation is found here. What was the Cliveden set? Perfect for trivia lovers, as well as a ...more
Jayne Wilson
*Pictured cover is not this edition*

Ayto, J. (2005). Brewer's dictionary of phrase & fable. (17th ed.). London: Collins

By: Jayne Wilson

Reference Type: Dictionary

Call Number: 803

Description: More than 15,000 entries of the meanings of terms, expressions, and names of real, fictitious and mythical characters in history, science, the arts and literature.

Review Source: Jack, J. (2006). [The Dictionary of Phrase & Fable]. Library Journal (1976), 162.

Relevance and Relationship: $55, A needed a
Chris Otto
Sep 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a reference book, this isn't a thing you ever "finish" or stop referring to or read from page 1 to 1000. It's been my night-time browing book for about the past three months, and I think I've read enough of it to rate it and sing its praises.

I'm a sucker for browsing books about the intertwining of history, folklore, legend and myth, and this is a great one.

The entries -- ranging from Bedlam to Domesday Book to Micah Rood's Apples to Lutine Bell to Thule -- ride that nice middle ground of gi
Altivo Overo
May 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At 1480 pages and at least ten pounds, I make no real cleaim of having "read" this entire work. However, I can heartily recommend it to all authors of fiction and readers as well. If you have trivia of the British Isles persuasion, as well as United States or anywhere in the Commonwealth, this overgrown book is a good starting place.
Originally published in 1870, it is more a compendium of miscellany than an encyclopedia or dictionary. Eclectic and verh British, it's the perfect place to look if
Welwyn Wilton
Sep 03, 2010 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Did you know that Aeschylus was killed by the fall of a tortoise on his bald head from the claws of an eagle in the air? (Now, how many of you have read Small Gods by Terry Pratchett? Is there nothing Pratchett doesn't know?) Anyway, this and many other strange and wonderful things are revealed (and referenced) in what is called a "Dictionary" of Phrase and Fable. Therefore, do not let the title fool you into thinking you don't need it. Everyone should have it as a bathroom book. That's where it ...more
Araminta Matthews
I enjoyed this book, but it wasn't quite what I expected. I was hoping for a more direct phrase-book that indicates colloqualisms and/or idioms in historical context, but it's a bit more of a single-word dictionary reminiscent of the Oxford English Dictionary in its presentation (though not nearly so complete). Still, it's a nice desk reference and my particular edition is introduced by Terry Pratchett.
Jan 29, 2011 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Despite the fact that actually reading a dictionary from cover to cover is nigh impossible without getting sidetracked for at least a week or two, I'm actually having quite a blast. I received this book for my birthday back in December, and have been making it a point to read a few entries from different letters weekly. There's not much to say about it; it's very factual, but not boring.
Howard Dickins
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference
Ok. I love reference books. Generally they're not read from cover-to-cover. But some of them (like Brewer's) are so crammed full of fascinating references and cultural anecdotes that it's just so hard to put down. If you don't own a copy - then you need one.
Michael Benavidez
useful even if it isn't useful at the moment. This is something that you read, you skim, you just enjoy, and later on something will stand out from the rest and will become something entirely useful. at least it was for me. still going through it time and time again.
Sep 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For all you aspiring writers out there... This is a book with thousands of story beginnings. Just pick a page and let your finger fall where it may. I guarantee you'll find an interesting passage worthy of a short story at least!
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another valuable book for any writer. Just paging through this book you are bound to learn something new. I turn to it often when writing to find new phrases to use of some myth that I never knew about. Love, love, love this book.
May 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everybody
Recommended to Lynda by: Folio Society Gift
This has become an indispensable reference book to me and in many cases is often my first point of call after the dictionary. Entries are well written and interesting as well as informative, useful and reliable. It can also be tempting to browse for the more eclectic entries.
John Jr.
I'm not going to try to add all my current or past reference books, but when one pops up in a Goodreads recommendation panel I might as well claim it. Like many other references, this one is both fun and useful.
Kate O'Hanlon
Jan 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference
This is one reference book that no one should be without.
Okay, we all have out wikipedia and our googles for looking up those half remembered legends, histories and origin myths but Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable is still an absolute delight to casually flip through.
Margaret Adams
Oct 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is often referred to as the classic reference for writers and speakers. It is. So many terms and phrases that one hears used are explained here and the origin of the term given. It is an excellent reference book and interesting in its own right.
Espen Helgesen
Jan 31, 2014 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Richard Thomas
Nov 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference
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Unabridged? (19th Edition) 1 3 Jun 06, 2015 08:43AM  
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  • The Chambers Dictionary
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms
  • An Exaltation of Larks: The Ultimate Edition
  • Dictionary of Word Origins: Histories of More Than 8,000 English-Language Words
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  • Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
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