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Chinaman's chance

Little or no chance at all; a completely hopeless prospect. This derogatory phrase originated in the 1800s and referred to Chinese immigrants who worked for extremely low wages, faced racism and higher taxation, and were prohibited from testifying in court for violence committed against them. Primarily heard in US, South Africa.
See also: chance

ghost town

A town that has become permanently devoid of inhabitants, typically due to the disappearance of business or economic opportunities. Primarily heard in US, South Africa. The town rose up fast and furiously as prospectors flooded the area in search of gold, but when the last of the precious minerals was gone, those same people were as fast to depart, leaving a creaking old ghost town in their wake.
See also: ghost, town

yield the ghost

To die. Based on the idea that one's spirit leaves the body when one dies. More commonly expressed in the phrase "give up the ghost." Susie called me in tears when grandma yielded the ghost after her long illness. Well, if the mechanic can't work his magic this time, it looks like Marshall's car will finally yield the ghost.
See also: ghost, yield

ghost writer

A writer (usually a professional) who assists in the writing of something (such as a book or speech) without taking credit for it. A: "I'm so impressed with the celebrity memoir I'm reading. I didn't expect this singer to be able to write so well!" B: "Yeah, she probably had a ghost writer!" Being the ghostwriter of some of the president's speeches is the greatest achievement of my life.
See also: ghost, writer

ghost of a chance

A slight but unlikely possibility. After I heard that a Harvard graduate applied for the same job I did, I knew that I didn't have a ghost of a chance of getting hired. Even though he knows he only has a ghost of a chance of winning the lottery, he still buys tickets every week.
See also: chance, ghost, of

the ghost walks

An expression used in theater to explain that actors will perform because they have been assured of payment. The phrase possibly originated when an actor playing Hamlet's father (who appears in Hamlet as a ghost) refused to act unless he was paid. The ghost walks today because we all just got paid!
See also: ghost, walk


slang To ignore someone until they go away, rather than directly expressing one's disinterest, especially in virtual communications. This phrase is often applied to failed love connections. That guy I went out with last week kept texting me, but I just wasn't interested, so I had to ghost him.

ghost of a chance

even the slightest chance. (Usually negative.) She can't do it. She doesn't have a ghost of a chance. There is just a ghost of a chance that I'll be there on time.
See also: chance, ghost, of

give up the ghost

Euph. to die. (Fixed order. Often used to describe machines breaking down.) The old man gave up the ghost. My poor old car finally gave up the ghost.
See also: ghost, give, up

*pale as a ghost

 and *pale as death
very pale. (*Also: as ~.) Laura came into the room, as pale as a ghost. "What happened?" her friends gasped. What's the matter? You're pale as death!
See also: ghost, pale

*white as a sheet

 and *white as a ghost; *white as snow; *white as the driven snow
[of someone] extremely pale, as if frightened. (*Also: as ~.) Marilyn turned as white as a sheet when the policeman told her that her son had been in a car wreck. Did something scare you? You're white as a sheet! Jane made up the bed with her best linen sheets, which are always as white as snow. We have a new kitten whose fur is white as the driven snow.
See also: sheet, white

a ghost of a chance

a very small possibility There's not a ghost of a chance that he'll be promoted.
See also: chance, ghost, of

give up the ghost

1. to die My great-grandfather gave up the ghost a week after moving into a nursing home.
2. to stop operating He had not been to town since spring because his car had given up the ghost.
3. to stop trying She'd been trying to break into acting for ten years without success and was just about to give up the ghost.
See also: ghost, give, up

the ghost/spectre at the feast

  (British literary)
something or someone that spoils your enjoyment by making you remember something unpleasant John was the spectre at the feast, always reminding her of her broken promise.
See also: feast, ghost

give up the ghost

1. to stop trying to do something because you know that you will not succeed She'd been trying to break into acting for ten years without success and was just about to give up the ghost.
2. (humorous) if a machine gives up the ghost, it stops working We've had the same television for fifteen years and I think it's finally about to give up the ghost.
See also: ghost, give, up

not a ghost of a chance

if someone does not have a ghost of a chance, they are not at all likely to succeed (sometimes + of + doing sth) Against competition like that, they didn't have the ghost of a chance of winning.
See the ghost at the feast, lay the ghost of
See also: chance, ghost, of

lay the ghost of something/somebody (to rest)

to finally stop being worried or upset by something or someone that has worried or upset you for a long time With one stunning performance, Chelsea have laid to rest the ghost of their humiliating defeat at Old Trafford last season.
See lay cards on the table, lay eyes on, send on a guilt trip, get hands on, give life
See also: ghost, lay, of

Chinaman's chance

Also, ghost of a chance. An extremely slim chance, a hopeless undertaking. Both versions are most often put negatively, as in He hasn't a Chinaman's chance of finishing the work in time, or They haven't a ghost of a chance to get as far as the playoffs. The first term, now considered offensive, dates from the late 1800s when many Chinese immigrants came to work in California and were resented because they worked for lower wages. Its precise allusion is unclear. The variant, which relies on the meaning of ghost as an insubstantial shadow, dates from the mid-1800s. Also see the synonyms fat chance; not an earthly chance.
See also: chance

ghost town

A once thriving town that has been completely abandoned, as in Many of the old mining communities are ghost towns now. This idiom implies that there are no living people left in town. [First half of 1900s]
See also: ghost, town

give up the ghost

Die, as in At ten o'clock he gave up the ghost. This expression, which employs ghost in the sense of "the soul or spirit," may itself be dying out. [Late 1300s]
See also: ghost, give, up

not a Chinaman's chance

Also, not a ghost of a chance. See under Chinaman's chance.
See also: chance, not

white as a sheet

Very pale in the face, as in She was white as a sheet after that near encounter. This simile, dating from about 1600, survives despite the fact that bedsheets now come in all colors.
See also: sheet, white

ghost someone

tv. to kill someone. Mooshoo threatened to ghost the guy.
See also: ghost

ghost turd

n. a wad of lint, as found under a bed. (Use caution with turd.) There’s a lot of ghost turds under the bed.
See also: ghost, turd

give up the ghost

To cease living or functioning; die.
See also: ghost, give, up

Chinaman's chance

Slim to no possibility. There have been several explanations about the origin of this odious phrase, all arising from Chinese immigrants working in the American West. One is that they were given the most dangerous jobs, such as setting and igniting explosives. Another is that judges and juries routinely convicted Chinese defendants on the flimsiest of evidence. A third is that Chinese miners were allowed to work gold claims only after others had taken the best ore. In any event, “Chinaman's chance” should be relegated to the slag heap.
See also: chance
References in classic literature ?
The fireflies, too, which sparkled most vividly in the darkest places, now and then startled him, as one of uncommon brightness would stream across his path; and if, by chance, a huge blockhead of a beetle came winging his blundering flight against him, the poor varlet was ready to give up the ghost, with the idea that he was struck with a witch's token.
To turn and fly was now too late; and besides, what chance was there of escaping ghost or goblin, if such it was, which could ride upon the wings of the wind?
Or would you know,' pursued the Ghost, `the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself?
Pondering on what the Ghost had said, he did so now, but without lifting up his eyes, or getting off his knees.
But the young ladies soon persuaded themselves that the ghost had several heads, which he changed about as he pleased.
He had seen the ghost behind the Persian, THE GHOST WITH THE DEATH'S HEAD just like Joseph Buquet's description
Then I saw Minos son of Jove with his golden sceptre in his hand sitting in judgement on the dead, and the ghosts were gathered sitting and standing round him in the spacious house of Hades, to learn his sentences upon them.
After him I saw huge Orion in a meadow full of asphodel driving the ghosts of the wild beasts that he had killed upon the mountains, and he had a great bronze club in his hand, unbreakable for ever and ever.
In Shakespeare, for instance--there are plenty of ghosts there--does Shakespeare ever give the stage-direction 'hands chair to Ghost'?
That, being white, would be more suitable for a Ghost, supposing it wished to welter
But you said you were trysting with ghosts here this evening," said the Story Girl.
Partridge sat in a fearful expectation of this; and now, when the ghost made his next appearance, Partridge cried out, "There, sir, now; what say you now?
Jacob must stop where he is; and the ghost may bring him his dinner, if the ghost pleases.
Of quite another kind, though equally "out of the common," was the incident of Hetty Parlow's ghost.
By the following morning the storm had blown itself quite out and the Ghost was rolling slightly on a calm sea without a breath of wind.