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An expression used to emphasize the veracity of one's statement. Based on an informal spelling of "Indian" (i.e., Native American), the phrase is somewhat dated and may be considered offensive. Primarily heard in US. I swear it wasn't me who broke the lamp, honest injun!
1. noun A line one person or one thing in width; single file. (Possibly deprecatory due to the politically incorrect reference to Native Americans.) An Indian file of geese—such an unusual flight pattern for the bird—crossed overhead as we traversed the field.
2. adverb In such a line. The students lined up and walked Indian file into the auditorium.
in Indian file
In a line one person or one thing in width; in single file. (Potentially offensive due to the politically incorrect reference to Native Americans.) The students lined up and marched in Indian file toward the auditorium.
an Indian giver
A person who asks the return of or takes back a gift after he or she has given it. (Potentially offensive due to the politically incorrect reference to Native Americans.) I'm sorry to be an Indian giver like this, but I'm afraid I need the $50 back that I gave you last week.
the Indian sign
A curse or spell placed upon a person that causes persistent misfortune or a loss of volition. (Potentially offensive due to the politically incorrect reference to Native Americans.) With my business crumbling, my wife having left me, and now this car accident, it feels like I've got the Indian sign on me. Be careful of a woman like that, son—she'll hang the Indian sign on you.
Too many chiefs and not enough Indians.
Prov. Too many people want to be the leader, and not enough people are willing to follow to do the detail work. Everyone on that committee wants to be in charge. Too many chiefs and not enough Indians. We'll never finish this project if everyone keeps trying to give orders. There are too many chiefs and not enough Indians.
an Indian summer
1. a period of warm weather which sometimes happens in early autumn Both the UK and Ireland have been enjoying an Indian summer over the past few weeks.
2. a successful or pleasant period in someone's life, especially towards the end of their life The book describes the last 20 years of Churchill's life, including his Indian summer as prime minister between 1951 and 1955.
One who takes or demands back one's gift to another, as in Jimmy wanted to take back Dan's birthday present, but Mom said that would make him an Indian giver . This term, now considered offensive, originally alluded to the Native American practice of expecting a gift in return for one that is given. [Colloquial; early 1800s]
A period of mild, sunny weather occurring in late autumn, usually following a seasonable cold spell. For example, We had two whole days of Indian summer this year, and then it turned cold again. [Late 1700s]
single file, in
Also, in Indian file. Aligned one behind the other, as in We have to bike in single file here, or The children were told to march in Indian file. Both usages are associated with military formations; the first term was first recorded in 1670; the variant, alluding to the usual marching order of Native Americans, was first recorded in 1758.
See also: single
Someone who gives a gift and then wants it returned. Native Americans' economy was based on the barter system; therefore, an item that colonists and settlers took to be an outright gift was expected to be reciprocated. When it was not, the giver wanted the item returned. The offensive phrase, which first appeared in mid-18th-century New England, is now rarely used . . . and properly so.