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speak daggers

To speak harshly or maliciously, so as to hurt the listener. I can't stand to be around my mother these days—she's always speaking daggers because she's so miserable. I will speak daggers to my enemy when I see him at the debate.
See also: dagger, speak

be at daggers drawn

To be prepared to verbally or physically fight another person or group. Primarily heard in UK, Australia. The police have had to intervene because those rival gangs have been at daggers drawn lately. The members of the committee are at daggers drawn because they cannot agree on a course of action.
See also: dagger, drawn


Using or involving secrecy, deception, or espionage, especially the kind portrayed in dramatic depictions of spying. During the Cold War, there were always rumors of the latest cloak-and-dagger tactics being used by spies. I know I said I wanted to meet you in private, but you didn't have to be so cloak-and-dagger about it. A parking garage isn't what I had in mind.

shoot daggers at (one)

To glare at someone very angrily, spitefully, or disdainfully. I noticed the bride shooting daggers at the best man as he started making vulgar jokes during his speech.
See also: dagger, shoot


involving secrecy and plotting. A great deal of cloak-and-dagger stuff goes on in political circles. A lot of cloak-and-dagger activity was involved in the appointment of the director.

look daggers at someone

Fig. to give someone a dirty look. Tom must have been mad at Ann from the way he was looking daggers at her. Don't you dare look daggers at me! Don't even look cross-eyed at me!
See also: dagger, look

daggers drawn, at

Also, with daggers drawn. About to or ready to fight, as in Are Felix and Oscar still at daggers drawn over the rent? Although daggers today are rarely if ever used to avenge an insult or issue a challenge to a duel, this idiom remains current. Its figurative use dates from about 1800.
See also: dagger

look daggers

Glare, stare fiercely, as in When she started to discuss their finances, he looked daggers at her. This metaphoric term, likening an angry expression to a dagger's thrust, dates from ancient times and has appeared in English since about 1600.
See also: dagger, look


COMMON You use cloak-and-dagger to describe activities, especially dangerous ones, which are done in secret. Now that the Berlin Wall has come down, the cloak-and-dagger world of East-West espionage might appear to be outdated. They met in classic cloak-and-dagger style beside the lake in St James's Park. Note: You can refer to such activities as cloaks and daggers. Working in police intelligence has very little to do with cloaks and daggers — it's mostly about boring reports and endless statistics. Note: You sometimes use this expression to suggest that people are treating these activities in an unnecessarily dramatic way. Note: This expression is taken from the name of a type of 17th century Spanish drama, in which characters typically wore cloaks and fought with daggers or swords.

at daggers drawn

If two people or groups are at daggers drawn, they are having a serious disagreement and are very angry with each other. The publishing and record divisions of the company were at daggers drawn over the simultaneous release of the book and the album. The government now finds itself at daggers drawn with the same press it had gone to such great lengths to give freedom of expression to.
See also: dagger, drawn

look daggers at someone

If someone looks daggers at you, they stare at you in a very angry way. Christabel stopped combing her hair and looked daggers at Ron. Note: Verbs such as stare and shoot are sometimes used instead of look. Mr. Trancas was grinning, while the other man stared daggers at him. Dede shot daggers at her adversary until she was out of sight.
See also: dagger, look

at daggers drawn

in a state of bitter enmity.
The image here is of the drawing of daggers as the final stage in a confrontation before actual fighting breaks out. Although recorded in 1668 , the expression only became common from the early 19th century onwards.
See also: dagger, drawn

look daggers at

glare angrily or venomously at.
The expression speak daggers is also found and is used by Shakespeare's Hamlet in the scene in which he reproaches his mother.
See also: dagger, look

be at daggers ˈdrawn (with somebody)

if two people are at daggers drawn, they are very angry with each other: They’ve been at daggers drawn ever since he borrowed her car and smashed it up. OPPOSITE: (as) thick as thieves (with somebody)
If you draw a weapon (= a gun, a dagger, etc.), you take it out in order to attack somebody.
See also: dagger, drawn

look ˈdaggers at somebody

look at somebody very angrily but not say anything: He looked daggers at her across the room when she mentioned his divorce.
See also: dagger, look, somebody


and bull-dagger and bulldyker
n. a lesbian, especially if aggressive or masculine. (Rude and derogatory.) Some old bulldiker strutted in and ordered a beer and a chaser. She was described by her friends as a “bull-dagger,” and I can’t imagine what her enemies called her.



look daggers at

To glare at angrily or hatefully.
See also: dagger, look
References in classic literature ?
Somebody will apply for that reward pretty promptly, and I'll show you the thief and the dagger both very soon afterward.
Pure I came to him whom Heaven bestowed upon me, pure I shall leave him; and at the worst bathed in my own chaste blood and in the foul blood of the falsest friend that friendship ever saw in the world;" and as she uttered these words she paced the room holding the unsheathed dagger, with such irregular and disordered steps, and such gestures that one would have supposed her to have lost her senses, and taken her for some violent desperado instead of a delicate woman.
This scene lasted but a few seconds: the shark returned, and, turning on his back, prepared himself for cutting the Indian in two, when I saw Captain Nemo rise suddenly, and then, dagger in hand, walk straight to the monster, ready to fight face to face with him.
Then Grimaud, lifting the dagger from the pool of blood which was gliding along the room, to the horror of all present, made a sign to the host to follow him, paid him with a generosity worthy of his master and again mounted his horse.
The brass dagger lay flat and gleaming a yard or so away.
He had brought a long-sword and a dagger for me, and thus armed we set out upon the return journey to my palace.
Then my head came above the deck and I saw Thurid, dagger in hand, leaping toward me.
In the second act there was scenery representing tombstones, there was a round hole in the canvas to represent the moon, shades were raised over the footlights, and from horns and contrabass came deep notes while many people appeared from right and left wearing black cloaks and holding things like daggers in their hands.
He snatched his dagger from his harness; but already Astok had left the deck of the Kalksus, and he knew that before he could overtake him, should he dispatch Vas Kor, he would be killed by the Dusarian warriors, who now were thick upon the deck.
Peter felt for his dagger till his hand gripped it.
She thrust in her hand and drew out a small, curiously shaped dagger of fine blue steel and a roll of silken cord.
I begin with a dreadful vacancy in my eyes, and a hollow moaning in my voice: 'Is this a dagger that I see before me--?
asked Father Brown, still staring at the dagger in his hand.
The Diamond fell into the possession of Tippoo, Sultan of Seringapatam, who caused it to be placed as an ornament in the handle of a dagger, and who commanded it to be kept among the choicest treasures of his armoury.
So he himself had often believed at first, until his eyes became used to the posts, bearing the dagger that slew Wat Tyler, in the City of London shield.