at a draught: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘at a draught’ mean?

The idiom "at a draught" means to drink all of something, especially liquid, quickly or in one continuous motion. It conveys the idea of consuming a substance in a single gulp or swig, emphasizing a swift and uninterrupted process.

Idiom Explorer

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The idiom "at a draught" originated in the 16th century in British English. It stems from the archaic meaning of the word "draught" as a single act of swallowing, particularly when it comes to drinking. During the late 1500s and early 1600s, drinking alcohol was a common social activity, which likely contributed to the popularity of this phrase.

"At a draught" is typically used to describe the act of consuming a drink quickly and in one continuous motion, without any pauses or breaks. It represents a swift and uninterrupted motion, similar to the act of swallowing. While the phrase is often associated with drinking alcohol, it can also be used figuratively to describe any task or action that is performed quickly and efficiently, without any interruptions or delays.

One possible explanation for the origin of the idiom "at a draught" is the association between swift drinking and bravery or courage. In earlier times, it was believed that being able to consume large amounts of alcohol in one go demonstrated strength and resilience. This belief is reflected in literary works from the 16th and 17th centuries, where characters who could drink at a draught were often portrayed as bold and fearless.

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The idiom "at a draught" has remained popular over the centuries, although its usage has decreased compared to the past. It is now employed in a broader range of contexts beyond drinking, conveying a sense of efficiency and speed in various situations. The versatility of this phrase has made it a valuable addition to the English language, allowing speakers to express the idea of completing a task quickly and without interruption.

The idiom "all at once" is related to "at a draught" in that both phrases emphasize the idea of doing something quickly and in a single action. "All at once" is often used to describe a sudden or immediate occurrence, where multiple things happen simultaneously or in quick succession. While "at a draught" focuses on the speed and efficiency of completing a specific task or action, "all at once" emphasizes the simultaneous nature of multiple events or actions being carried out.

Another related idiom is "in the drink." This phrase is typically used to describe a situation where something or someone has fallen or been submerged in water, often with negative consequences. While "in the drink" may seem unrelated to "at a draught," both idioms share a common theme of rapid action or immersion. In the case of "in the drink," it refers to an unplanned or accidental immersion in water, whereas "at a draught" highlights a deliberate and efficient action.

Despite the uncertainties surrounding the precise origin of the idiom "at a draught," its continued usage and longevity underscore its importance in the English language. This phrase serves as a reminder of the multifaceted nature of idiomatic expressions, as they can evolve and adapt over time to meet the needs of different generations. Exploring the etymology and meaning of idioms like "at a draught" not only enriches our understanding of language but also provides insights into the cultural and historical contexts in which these phrases originated.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom "at a draught" can be used in a sentence:

  1. She chugged the entire glass of water at a draught.
  2. He downed the shot of whiskey at a draught.
  3. After a long day of hiking, he gulped down a bottle of cold beer at a draught.

The idiom "at a draught" is used to describe the act of consuming something in one continuous and uninterrupted action. It implies that the person drinks or consumes the entire thing in a single gulp, without taking any breaks or pauses.

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