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‘This is, in fact, not what you were looking for; but it’s much more interesting’ Terry Pratchett

Much loved for its wit and wisdom since 1870, Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable takes you on a captivating adventure through its trademark blend of language, culture, myth and legend. Nowhere else could the histories of the guillotine and Guinness stout sit so comfortably alongside the KGB and the Keystone Kops. Brewer’s is a catalogue of curiosities and absurdities that, over almost 150 years in print, has acquired near-mythical status.

Edited by Susie Dent, this new edition includes a brand new Collection of Curious Words and many new and updated entries. Its pages brim with esoteric and entertaining oddities – everything from curious customs to the world of newspapers and political alliances of yesteryear – all seen through the distinctive Brewer lens.

This twentieth edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable encapsulates all the charm and wit that characterise its predecessors and maintains the standards of scholarship and eclecticism that have long been its hallmark.

Whether you’re a committed Brewerphile or a newcomer to its pages of fascinating entries, this edition will draw you in and keep you glued to its rich mix of eccentric nuggets.

As Susie Dent explains in the foreword, Brewer’s “is unlike any other reference book that exists, anywhere.”


Of all the dictionaries in the world [Brewer's] is the most like a treasure-hunt, where one phrase leads to another, and that to a third, and before you know what's happened, it's time for lunch
Philip Pullman
An idiosyncratic adventure, pulling you in and saying: "this is, in fact, not what you were looking for; but it's much more interesting"
Terry Pratchett
Off each page of Brewer's leaps some titbit of cultural or linguistic miscellany, much of which this reader didn't even know that he didn't know... A delight to flip around
The Economist
An addiction may develop
For almost 150 years it has been a celebrated treasure-trove of curious words, forgotten folklore and colourful olde worlde insults...It's opinionated, incomplete, haphazard and strangely addictive.
The Telegraph
that wonderful reference work Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable. Endlessly fascinating, it is an idiosyncratic treasure trove of word history, culture, folk lore and legend-and one of my favourite books.
The Bookseller
Whoever it was who said that you learn something new every day had obviously never read Brewer's Dictionary Of Phrase And Fable. Browsing through this latest edition, I learned something new every few seconds... Who can fail to love a book that is jam-packed with such colourful and random information?... in what other reference book in the world would you ever find the Dalai Lama, the Daleks and Arthur Daley all rubbing shoulders on the same page?
The Daily Mail