dear

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after you, my dear Alphonse

A phrase typically said when two people try to do the same thing at the same time. It derives from the 1920s comic strip Happy Hooligan, which featured two very well-mannered Frenchmen, Alphonse and Gaston. No, no, you go first—after you, my dear Alphonse!
See also: after, dear

Dear John letter

A letter sent, typically from a woman to a man, to end a romantic relationship. Mike was clearly upset when he received a Dear John letter from his girlfriend, Caroline. He thought their relationship was going well and didn't expect it to end so suddenly. Mail call was usually a happy time in the military barracks, except for the unlucky soldiers who got Dear John letters from their sweethearts back home.
See also: dear, john, letter

dear departed

Euph. a dead person, as referred to at a funeral. Let's take a moment to meditate on the life of the dear departed.
See also: dear

a Dear John letter

a letter a woman writes to her boyfriend telling him that she does not love him anymore. Bert got a Dear John letter today from Sally. He was devastated.
See also: dear, john, letter

Dear me!

an expression of mild dismay or regret. Sue: Dear me, is this all there is? Mary: There's more in the kitchen. "Oh, dear me!" fretted John, "I'm late again."
See also: dear

hang on for dear life

Cliché to hang on tight. As the little plane bounced around over the mountains, we hung on for dear life.
See also: dear, hang, life, on

thing you don't want is dear at any price

Prov. You should not buy something just because it is cheap. Jill: There's a sale on black-and-white film; we should get some. Jane: We never use black-and-white film. Jill: But it's so cheap. Jane: A thing you don't want is dear at any price.
See also: any, dear, price, thing, want

close to your heart

also dear to your heart
of great importance to you The issue of race is one that is close to his heart.
See also: close, heart

hold on for dear life

to use a lot of effort to keep something With so few jobs available, workers are holding on for dear life to the jobs they already have.
See also: dear, hold, life, on

near and dear to you

very important to you People usually give more attention to the things that are particularly near and dear to them.
See also: and, dear, near

your nearest and dearest

your family My wife and dozens of her nearest and dearest are from West Virginia.
See also: and, dear, near

cost somebody dear

if something that someone does, especially something stupid, costs them dear, it causes them a lot of problems Later that year he attacked a photographer, an incident that cost him dear.
See count the cost, and hang the cost
See also: cost, dear

a Dear John letter

  (humorous)
a letter that you send to a man telling him you want to end a romantic relationship with him I've always thought Dear John letters a cowardly way of ending a relationship.
See also: dear, john, letter

hang/hold on (to something/somebody) for dear life

to hold something or someone as tightly as you can in order to avoid falling I sat behind Gary on the bike and hung on for dear life as we sped off. A rope was passed down and she held on to it for dear life as she was pulled to safety.
See cost dear, close to heart
See also: dear, hang, life, on

close/dear to somebody's heart

if something is dear to someone's heart, it is very important to them Animal rights is an issue very close to my heart.
See also: close, heart

your nearest and dearest

  (humorous)
your family When people are stressed at work, they tend to go home and take it out on their nearest and dearest.
See also: and, dear, near

dear me

Also, oh dear. A polite exclamation expressing surprise, distress, sympathy, etc. For example, Dear me, I forgot to mail it, or Oh dear, what a bad time you've been having. These usages may originally have invoked God, as in dear God or oh God , which also continue to be so used. [Late 1600s]
See also: dear

for dear life

Also, for one's life. Desperately, urgently, so as to save one's life. For example, When the boat capsized, I hung on for dear life, or With the dogs chasing them they ran for their lives, or She wanted that vase but I saw it first and hung on to it for dear life. These expressions are sometimes hyperbolic (that is, one's life may not actually be in danger). The first dates from the mid-1800s, the variant from the first half of the 1600s. Also see for the life of one.
See also: dear, life

nearest and dearest

One's closest and fondest friends, companions, or relatives, as in It's a small gathering-we're inviting only a dozen or so of our nearest and dearest. This rhyming expression has been used ironically since the late 1500s, as well as by Shakespeare in 1 Henry IV (3:2): "Why, Harry, do I tell thee of my foes, which art my nearest and dearest enemy?"
See also: and, dear, near

Dear John letter

n. a letter a woman writes to her boyfriend in the military service telling him that she does not love him anymore. Sally sends a Dear John letter about once a month.
See also: dear, john, letter

for dear life

Desperately or urgently: I ran for dear life when I saw the tiger.
See also: dear, life
References in classic literature ?
It is such a pretty charade, my dear, that I can easily guess what fairy brought it.
Then Menelaus said, "All that you have been saying, my dear wife, is true.
My dear," their considerate aunt would reply, "it is very bad, but you must not expect everybody to be as forward and quick at learning as yourself.
You are so like your dear brother," continued Isabella, "that I quite doted on you the first moment I saw you.
Yes, my dear, it was an old abbot of that name-I must be off to see the count, he's waiting for me, I'm late--Good-bye
my dear, how calmly you talk of it; and can the Colonel wait two or three months
The Doctor stopped, smilingly clapped me on the shoulder again, and exclaimed, with a triumph most delightful to behold, as if I had penetrated to the profoundest depths of mortal sagacity, 'My dear young friend, you have hit it.
All I stip'late, is, to stand by and look at you, dear boy
I have served you all these years and you never even threw me a bone, but the dear children gave me their own piece of ham.
My Dear grieved with the grieving girl and did her best to comfort and cheer her.
I wish I were with you, dear, sitting by the fire undressing, as we used to sit, and I would try to tell you what I feel.
But do you really think, dear Caroline, that legislation would improve matters in any way?
Wishing you many happy returns of the day, my dear child
You who love sporting, and who, whether you admit it or not, are a poet, my dear friend, you will find pheasants, rail and teal, without counting sunsets and excursions on the water, to make you fancy yourself Nimrod and Apollo themselves.
Excepting one short period of her life, she had never, since the age of fourteen, never since the loss of her dear mother, know the happiness of being listened to, or encouraged by any just appreciation or real taste.