Three acres and a cow regarded as the requirement for self-sufficiency; as a political slogan associated with the radical politician Jesse Collings (1831–1920) and his land reform campaign begun in 1885. Collings used the phrase in the House of Commons, 26 January 1886; it had also been used earlier by Joseph Chamberlain.
Three Graces in classical Greek mythology, three beautiful goddesses (Aglaia, Thalia, and Euphrosyne), daughters of Zeus. They were believed to personify and bestow charm, grace, and beauty.
Three Kings the Magi, who came from the East to worship the new-born Christ. They are also known as The Three Kings of Cologne, from a prevalent belief that their bodies were preserved at that city, having been removed thither in 1164 from Milan, where they were alleged to have been discovered in 1158.
three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead proverbial saying, mid 16th century; meaning that the only way to keep a secret is to tell no-one else.
Three Mile Island an island in the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, site of a nuclear power station. In 1979 an accident caused damage to the reactor core, provoking strong reactions against the nuclear industry in the US.
three-mile limit the limit of territorial waters for Britain, America, and other states.
Three Musketeers in Dumas' novel Les Trois Mousquetaires (1844), Athos, Porthos, and Aramis befriend the young D'Artagnan, and assist him in defeating the scheming agent of Cardinal Richelieu; in extended use, the phrase means three close associates.
three R's reading, writing, and (a)rithmetic; a phrase said to have originated in a toast by Sir William Curtis (1752–1829).
three removals are as bad as a fire proverbial saying, mid 18th century; meaning that moving house is so disruptive and unsettling, that the effects of doing it three times are as destructive as a house fire.
three sheets in the wind very drunk; a sheet is a rope or chain attached to the lower corner of a sail for securing the sail or altering its direction relative to the wind.
three strikes (and you're out) legislation which provides that an offender's third felony is punishable by life imprisonment or other severe sentence, a phrase which developed in the US in the 1980s, and which comes from the terminology of baseball, in which a batter who has had three strikes, or three fair opportunities of hitting the ball, is out.
three things are not to be trusted; a cow's horn, a dog's tooth, and a horse's hoof proverbial saying, late 14th century; meaning that one may be gored, bitten, or kicked without warning.
Three Wise Men another name for the Magi.
See also bad things come in threes, Three Kings of Cologne, the Three Magi, three wise monkeys at monkey, rule of three, two is company, but three is none.