the quick and the dead

Also found in: Wikipedia.

the quick and the dead

Those alive and dead alike. Often used figuratively. ("Quick" has the archaic meaning of "alive" in this phrase.) Today we pay our respects as a nation for the quick and the dead who have fought, and continue to fight, for our freedom and safety. In this new, cutthroat market, there are only two categories of company—the quick and the dead.
See also: and, dead, quick
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

quick and the dead

The living and the dead, as in The explosion was loud enough to wake the quick and the dead. Although quick has been used for "living" since the 9th century a.d., it survives only in this idiom and in cut to the quick, and may be obsolescent.
See also: and, dead, quick
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.

quick and the dead, the

The living and the dead. The word quick for “living” was used as far back as King Alfred’s time (cwicum in Middle English, ca. a.d. 897) but is rarely used in this meaning nowadays, except in this cliché and in cut to the quick. Amélie Rives used it as the title of her novel The Quick or the Dead (1888). A few decades later Britain’s Lord Dewar is quoted as saying, “There are two classes of pedestrians in these days of reckless motor traffic: the quick and the dead” (in George Robey, Looking Back on Life, 1933).
See also: and, quick
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
See also:
References in periodicals archive ?
One can make a case that the true test of liturgical endurance is the ironic misquote; when we can speak of the quick and the dead in traffic - even if we are not Anglicans, even if the Anglican Church has thrown out the word "quick" as linguistically obsolete - we revive the old meaning for the sake of the pun, and both invoke order and create vertigo in a new place.