Indian


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honest injun

An expression used to emphasize the veracity of one's statement. Based on an informal spelling of "Indian" (i.e., Native American). One of many expressions often considered offensive for making reference to Native American stereotypes or tropes. Primarily heard in US. I swear it wasn't me who broke the lamp, honest injun!
See also: honest, injun

Indian file

1. noun A line one person or one thing in width; single file. One of many expressions often considered offensive for making reference to Native American stereotypes or tropes. 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.
See also: file, Indian

in Indian file

In a line one person or one thing in width; in single file. One of many expressions often considered offensive for making reference to Native American stereotypes or tropes. The students lined up and marched in Indian file toward the auditorium.
See also: file, Indian

an Indian giver

A person who asks the return of or takes back a gift after they have given it. One of many expressions often considered offensive for making reference to Native American stereotypes or tropes. 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.
See also: giver, Indian

the Indian sign

A curse or spell placed upon a person that causes persistent misfortune or a loss of volition. One of many expressions often considered offensive for making reference to Native American stereotypes or tropes. 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.
See also: Indian, sign

Indian summer

1. A period of unseasonably warm weather in early fall. I know it's September, but don't get out your winter clothes just yet—this area often has an Indian summer. I hate the cold weather, so I'm hoping for an Indian summer.
2. A particularly peaceful, successful, or enjoyable time as something nears its end. As her illness worsened, my grandmother still enjoyed painting, so I think she had an Indian summer before her death. I wonder if people sensed that they were in an Indian summer just before the Great Depression.
See also: Indian, summer

(there are) too many chiefs and not enough Indians

There are too many people trying to manage or organize something, and not enough people willing to actually do the work. One of many expressions often considered offensive for making reference to Native American stereotypes or tropes. Everyone wants to be the brains of this project, but there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians!
See also: and, chief, enough, Indian, many, not

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.
See also: and, chief, enough, Indian, many, not

Indian giver

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]
See also: giver, Indian

Indian summer

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]
See also: Indian, summer

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

too many chiefs and not enough Indians

OFFENSIVE or

too many chiefs

If there are too many chiefs or too many chiefs and not enough Indians in an organization, there are too many people in charge and not enough people doing the work. This bank has 21 executive directors. No surprise, then, that some insiders say there are too many chiefs.
See also: and, chief, enough, Indian, many, not

an Indian summer

mainly BRITISH
An Indian summer is a period of great success late in someone's life or career, often after a period of not being successful. Despite an unexpected Indian Summer, they never really lived up to their initial promise. Note: An Indian summer is a period of unusually warm sunny weather during the autumn.
See also: Indian, summer

too many chiefs and not enough Indians

used to describe a situation where there are too many people giving orders and not enough people to carry them out.
See also: and, chief, enough, Indian, many, not

Indian summer

1 a period of dry, warm weather occurring in late autumn. 2 a tranquil or productive period in someone's later years.
2 1930 Vita Sackville-West The Edwardians Meanwhile she was quite content that Sebastian should become tanned in the rays of Sylvia's Indian summer.
See also: Indian, summer

honest Injun

honestly; really. dated
See also: honest, Injun

there are too many ˌchiefs and not enough ˈIndians

(British English, informal) used to describe a situation in which there are too many people telling other people what to do, and not enough people to do the work
See also: and, chief, enough, Indian, many, not, there

(in) single/Indian ˈfile

in a line, one person after another: The whole class walked along behind the teacher in single file.When American Indians walked in a group, each person walked in the footsteps of the person in front so that they could not be counted by the enemy.
See also: file, Indian, single

an ˌIndian ˈsummer


1 a period of unusually dry, warm weather in the autumn: We had a splendid Indian summer last October.
2 a period of success or happiness near the end of somebody’s life: He made his best movies in his seventies; it was for him a real Indian summer.
See also: Indian, summer

too many chiefs and not enough Indians

Too many bosses and not enough workers. This expression, also stated more hyperbolically as all chiefs and no Indians, originated in the first half of the 1900s. Although the term refers to native American tribal organization, it is not considered offensive.
See also: and, chief, enough, Indian, many, not

Indian giver

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.
See also: giver, Indian
References in classic literature ?
A familiar intercourse of some standing with the Pierced-nose and Flathead Indians had now convinced Captain Bonneville of their amicable and inoffensive character; he began to take a strong interest in them, and conceived the idea of becoming a pacificator, and healing the deadly feud between them and the Blackfeet, in which they were so deplorably the sufferers.
The proposition pleased the captain, who was desirous, through the Indians, of becoming acquainted with all the secret places of the land.
Following up the right fork of the river they came to where it entered a deep gorge of the mountains, up which lay the secluded region so much valued by the Indians. Captain Bonneville halted and encamped for three days before entering the gorge.
I immediately pursued the Indians, with only eight men, and on the sixteenth overtook them, killed two of the party, and recovered the girls.
On the fourth day of July following, a party of about two hundred Indians attacked Boonsborough, killed one man, and wounded two.
The chief Indian said something in his own language to the other two, pointing to the boy, and pointing towards the town, in which (as we afterwards discovered) they were lodged.
She particularly reminded me of the Indian's third question, Has the English gentleman got It about him?
The Gauchos think that the Indians consider the tree as the god itself, but it seems for more probable that they regard it as the altar.
He first gained his celebrity by his laws for his own estancias, and by disciplining several hundred men, so as to resist with success the attacks of the Indians. There are many stories current about the rigid manner in which his laws were enforced.
"Sire," answered the Indian, to whom the proposal did not seem nearly so generous as it appeared to the king, "I am most grateful to your Highness for your princely offer, and beseech you not to be offended with me if I say that I can only deliver up my horse in exchange for the hand of the princess your daughter."
A shout of laughter burst from the courtiers as they heard these words, and Prince Firouz Schah, the heir apparent, was filled with anger at the Indian's presumption.
The Indians, as yet unacquainted with the artificial value given to some descriptions of furs, in civilized life, brought quantities of the most precious kinds and bartered them away for European trinkets and cheap commodities.
As the valuable furs soon became scarce in the neighborhood of the settlements, the Indians of the vicinity were stimulated to take a wider range in their hunting expeditions; they were generally accompanied on these expeditions by some of the traders or their dependents, who shared in the toils and perils of the chase, and at the same time made themselves acquainted with the best hunting and trapping grounds, and with the remote tribes, whom they encouraged to bring their peltries to the settlements.
But the new Indian guide could see like a cat, and led the party along paths they never could have found by themselves.
"Yes, he went off with the rest of the Indians when Jacinto deserted us, but he could not stand being a traitor, after you had tried to save his brother's life.
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