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Meanings of "quarter"

Posted by ESC on November 27, 2001

In Reply to: No quarter posted by Barney on November 27, 2001

: : Where did the phrase "no quarter" come from and what would be the correct usage of the term? I'm guessing it's origin comes from sailing somehow but haven't been able to find a good definition anywhere. Thanks.

: The Tatty old OED gives:

: Quarter (Mass Noun): pity or mercy shown towards an enemy or opponent who is in one's power: the riot squad gave 'no quarter'.

: -ORIGIN Middle English: from Old French quartier, from Latin quartarius 'fourth part of a measure', from quartus 'fourth', from quattuor 'four'.

NO QUARTER GIVEN -- No leniency or clemency shown. The word 'quarter' has many meanings, one of which is the ancient battlefield practice of sparing defeated enemies from death. That meaning may in turn have derived from one of two others, either a person's relationship with another (i.e., 'to keep good quarter with' someone), or a place of residence and safety. In James Howell's 'Letters' one reads: 'He suffered Tilly to take that great Town with so much effusion of blood, because they wood receiue no quarter.'" " From The Dictionary of Cliches by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).

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