Quick Reference

A colour or pigment of the colour of milk or fresh snow, due to the reflection of all visible rays of light; the opposite of black, traditionally taken as the colour of innocence and purity.

From the 17th century, white was specially associated with royalist and legitimist causes, as in the white cockade of the Jacobites and the white flag of the Bourbons.

Mrs White is one of the six stock characters constituting the murderer and suspects in the game of Cluedo.

one white foot, buy him; two white feet, try him; three white feet, look well about him; four white feet, go without him proverbial saying on horse-dealing, categorizing features in a horse which are believed to be unlucky; recorded in various forms from the 15th century.

White Army any of the armies which opposed the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War of 1918–21.

White Boar the personal badge of Richard III (1452–85), alluded to in the political rhyme beginning the cat, the rat, and Lovell the dog.

white-bread of, belonging to, or representative of the white middle classes; not progressive, radical, or innovative; the term (which is recorded from the late 1970s, originally in North America) refers to the colour and perceived blandness of white bread as a commodity, and may also be a pun on ‘white bred’.

white Christmas Christmas with snow on the ground, a term first recorded in Charles Kingsley Two Years Ago (1857), ‘We shall have a white Christmas, I expect. Snow's coming.’, and popularized by Irving Berlin's song ‘White Christmas’ (1942).

white cliffs of Dover the chalk cliffs on the Kent coast near Dover, taken as a national and patriotic symbol, and popularized as such in the patriotic wartime song by Nat Burton ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ (1941).

white cockade a Jacobite badge, worn by the supporters of Charles Edward Stuart; according to a note in Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson, in 1745 Boswell himself ‘wore a white cockade, and prayed for King James’.

white-collar of or relating to the work done or those who work in an office or other professional environment; denoting non-violent crime committed by white-collar workers, especially fraud. References to a white collar as the sign of a clerical or non-manual worker are found from the 1920s.

White Company the name of a mercenary company led by John Hawkwood (d. 1394), who were active in Italy in the mid 14th century; it is suggested that the name reflected the splendour of their equipment.

White Devil in John Webster's eponymous play (1612), the name given to the central character, Vittoria Corombona, who connives at the murder of her husband and her lover's wife, and who is finally herself murdered; the play is based on the historical character Vittoria Accoramboni (1557–85).

white dwarf a small very dense star that is typically the size of a planet. A white dwarf is formed when a low-mass star has exhausted all its central nuclear fuel and lost its outer layers as a planetary nebula.


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