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

cost (one) dear

To bring one trouble; to result in very negative consequences. The crimes of his youth cost him dear when he started applying for jobs.
See also: cost, dear

dear me

An expression of surprise or disappointment. Dear me, it seems I've forgotten the casserole I made for tonight's meeting.
See also: dear

dear(ly) departed

euphemism One who has died. Myrna was a wonderful woman, and we are all gathered here today to remember our dearly departed.
See also: departed

hold on for dear life

To hold something very tightly, as if one's life depended on it. The hiker grabbed a root as she fell off the cliff, and had to hold on for dear life while she waiting for the rescue crew. When the dentist motioned us back into the examination room, my daughter clutched her chair and held on for dear life.
See also: dear, hold, life, on

near and dear to (one)

Of great importance to and held in very high esteem by oneself. Literature has been near and dear to me since high school. It's important to have people in your life who are near and dear to you.
See also: and, dear, near

dear to (one's) heart

Personally important to, or loved by, one. The little girl who came to visit the elderly woman every weekend was very close to her heart.
See also: dear, heart

hang on for dear life

To hang something very tightly, as if one's life depended on it. The hiker grabbed a root as she fell off the cliff, and had to hang on for dear life while she waiting for the rescue crew. When the dentist motioned us back into the examination room, my daughter clutched her chair and hung on for dear life.
See also: dear, hang, life, on

nearest and dearest

The people with whom one has the closest relationships; one's closest and move beloved family members and friends. People would much rather go home and spend time with their nearest and dearest, not hang around their co-workers at some dull office party.
See also: and, dear, near

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, departed

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

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

close to your heart

mainly BRITISH or

dear to your heart

COMMON If a subject is close to your heart or dear to your heart, it is very important to you and you care a lot about it. Note: The heart is traditionally regarded as the centre of the emotions. For presenter Manjeet K. Sandhu the position of Asian women in society is an issue very close to her heart. It's a project that is dear to my heart. Note: In American English, you can also say that a subject is near and dear to your heart. She has impressed Senators with her knowledge of subjects near and dear to their hearts.
See also: close, heart

your nearest and dearest

Your nearest and dearest are your close friends and family. The English do not like to show their feelings, even to their nearest and dearest.
See also: and, dear, near

for dear (or your) life

as if or in order to escape death.
1992 Independent I made for the life raft and hung on for dear life.
See also: dear, life

your nearest and dearest

your close friends and relatives.
See also: and, dear, near

dear me

,

(dear,) oh dear

used for expressing worry, sympathy, concern, etc: Dear me! It’s started to rain and I’ve just hung out the washing!
See also: dear

for dear ˈlife

,

for your ˈlife

because you are in danger: Run for your life! A tiger has escaped from the circus!They were clinging for dear life to the edge of the rock.
See also: dear, life

hold somebody/something ˈdear

(formal) feel that somebody/something is of great value: He laughed at the ideas they held dear.

be close/dear/near to somebody’s ˈheart

be a person or thing that somebody is very fond of, concerned about, interested in, etc: The campaign to keep our local hospital open is something that is very close to my heart.
See also: close, dear, heart, near

your ˌnearest and ˈdearest

(informal, often humorous) your close family and friends: It must be difficult for him here, living so far away from his nearest and dearest.
See also: and, dear, near

an old ˈdear

(informal) an old woman: And then this old dear came in looking very ill, so I asked the doctor to see her before the other patients.
See also: dear, old

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.