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at daggers drawn

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

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


1. A derogatory and highly offensive term for a woman, especially a lesbian, who is aggressively masculine in appearance or manner. Typically used in reference to black lesbians.
2. A reclaimed term used by homosexuals to describe such a woman. Yeah, I'm a bulldagger who's attracted to femmes.


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.

look daggers at (one)

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

shoot daggers at (one)

To glare at one 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

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
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.


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
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


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, someone
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

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
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

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
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017


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.


McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

look daggers at

To glare at angrily or hatefully.
See also: dagger, look
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


Describing a secret or undercover operation. The term dates from seventeenth-century Spain, and the popular swashbuckling plays of Lope de Vega and Pedro Calderón de la Barca, filled with duels, intrigue, and betrayal. They were referred to as comedias de capa y espada, which was variously translated as “cloak-and-sword” or “cloak-and-dagger plays.” Somewhat later, in the nineteenth century, the term began to be applied to various kinds of romantic intrigue, and still later, to espionage. The idea of concealment was, of course, much older, and indeed, Chaucer wrote of “The smyler with the knyf under the cloke” (The Knight’s Tale).

look daggers at, to

To glare at someone. The term first appeared in the Greek playwright Aristophanes’s The Birds (ca. 414 b.c.) and was alluded to several times by Shakespeare. “There’s daggers in men’s smiles,” he wrote (Macbeth, 2:3). The image aptly conveys the fierceness of such a glance and appealed to numerous other writers, including Thoreau. A synonymous cliché is if looks could kill, which has been around since the early 1900s. Frank Harris used it in My Life and Loves (1922): “When they let me up I looked at Jones, and if looks could kill, he would have had short shrift.”
See also: dagger, look, to
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
See also:
References in classic literature ?
They'll be sure to subpoena me; I shall be bound to say that after the cry was heard each of you rushed into the room in a wild state and began quarrelling about a dagger. As far as my words on oath can go, you might either of you have done it.
Aurora Rome had been stabbed with some sharp instrument such as a knife or dagger; some instrument, at least, of which the blade was short.
Butler, K.C., sprang to his feet in an extraordinary stillness, and said quite calmly: "Your lordship will allow me to cross-examine?" And then, without stopping, he shot at Brown the apparently disconnected question: "You have heard about this dagger; you know the experts say the crime was committed with a short blade?"
Before the audience could quite dismiss the idea that the priest had really seen himself doing murder with a short dagger with a long hilt
"I mean daggers aren't the only things with short blades.
Lothario, terrified and breathless, ran in haste to pluck out the dagger; but when he saw how slight the wound was he was relieved of his fears and once more admired the subtlety, coolness, and ready wit of the fair Camilla; and the better to support the part he had to play he began to utter profuse and doleful lamentations over her body as if she were dead, invoking maledictions not only on himself but also on him who had been the means of placing him in such a position: and knowing that his friend Anselmo heard him he spoke in such a way as to make a listener feel much more pity for him than for Camilla, even though he supposed her dead.
Number and age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths* involving cocaine (dagger) and psychostimulants with abuse potential, ([section]), ([paragraph]) by opioid involvement, ** sex, age group, race and Hispanic origin, ([dagger][dagger]) U.S.
The Omani dagger is a national symbol of Oman featured on its flag, alongside two swords.
Hamyar bin Hamad Al-Omari of the Oman Craft Industry Association, listed the various types of Omani dagger such as the Suri, the Saidi, the Batani, the Sahili and the Nazwani.
On Wednesday, an unusual study concluded that human thigh bone did not make for better dagger material, but was rather a symbol of prestige.
But the human bone dagger was designed to last longer.
One cassowary dagger, sourced from a private art dealer, was put under real-world physical stress to establish its tensile strength and failure point, while the remaining ten, which were computer models of daggers kept on display at the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, were tested under the impact of simulated stressors.
The GBP20,000 Duncan Lawrie Dagger was awarded to Peter Temple for his novel The Broken Shore, published by Quercus.
The 15 member countries of CECIMO are denoted by a double dagger ([double dagger]) in the Production table opposite.
But this was just a warm-up for the director's ragingly romantic House of Flying Daggers (which made its American debut at the New York Film Festival last month and opens in theaters on December 3).