bull in a china shop


1 [bool]
the male of a bovine animal, especially of the genus Bos, with sexual organs intact and capable of reproduction.
the male of certain other animals, as the elephant and moose.
a large, solidly built person.
a person who believes that market prices, especially of stocks, will increase (opposed to bear ).
(initial capital letter) Astronomy, Astrology. the constellation or sign of Taurus.
Slang. a police officer.
of, pertaining to, or resembling a bull, as in strength.
having to do with or marked by a continuous trend of rising prices, as of stocks: a bull market.
verb (used with object)
Stock Exchange. to attempt to raise the price of.
to speculate in, in expectation of a rise in price.
to force; shove: to bull one's way through a crowd.
Nautical. to ram (a buoy).
bull in a china shop,
an awkward or clumsy person.
an inconsiderate or tactless person.
a troublemaker; dangerous person.
take the bull by the horns, to attack a difficult or risky problem fearlessly.

1150–1200; Middle English bule, Old English bula; akin to Old Norse boli; see bullock

bull-like, adjective
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
bull1 (bʊl)
1.  any male bovine animal, esp one that is sexually matureRelated: taurine
2.  the uncastrated adult male of any breed of domestic cattle
3.  the male of various other animals including the elephant and whale
4.  a very large, strong, or aggressive person
5.  stock exchange
 a.  a speculator who buys in anticipation of rising prices in order to make a profit on resale
 b.  Compare bear (as modifier): a bull market
6.  chiefly (Brit) bull's-eye short for bull's-eye
7.  slang short for bullshit
8.  bulldog short for bull terrier
9.  a bull in a china shop a clumsy person
10.  slang (US), (Canadian) shoot the bull
 a.  to pass time talking lightly
 b.  to boast or exaggerate
11.  take the bull by the horns to face and tackle a difficulty without shirking
12.  male; masculine: a bull elephant
13.  large; strong
14.  (tr) to raise or attempt to raise the price or prices of (a stock market or a security) by speculative buying
15.  (intr) (of a cow) to be on heat
16.  slang (US) (intr) to talk lightly or foolishly
Related: taurine
[Old English bula, from Old Norse boli; related to Middle Low German bulle, Middle Dutch bolle]

bull2 (bʊl)
Also called: Irish bull a ludicrously self-contradictory or inconsistent statement
[C17: of uncertain origin]

bull3 (bʊl)
a formal document issued by the pope, written in antiquated characters and often sealed with a leaden bulla
[C13: from Medieval Latin bulla seal attached to a bull, from Latin: round object]

Bull1 (bʊl)
the Bull the constellation Taurus, the second sign of the zodiac

Bull2 (bʊl)
1.  John. 1563--1628, English composer and organist
2.  See John Bull

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

O.E. bula "a bull, a steer," or O.N. boli "bull," both from P.Gmc. *bullon- (cf. M.Du. bulle, Ger. Bulle), perhaps from a Gmc. verbal stem meaning "to roar," which survives in some Ger. dialects and perhaps in the first element of boulder (q.v.). The other possibility is
that it is from PIE *bhln-, from base *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell" (see bole). An uncastrated male, reared for breeding, as opposed to a bullock or steer. Extended after 1610s to males of other large animals (elephant, alligator, whale, etc.). Bullfrog is from 1738, on resemblance of voice. Stock market sense is from 1714. Bulldyke is from 1926 (see dyke). Bullheaded "obstinate" is from 1818. Phrase to take the bull by the horns first recorded 1711.

"papal edict," c.1300, from L. bulla "sealed document" (cf. O.Fr. bulle, It. bulla), originally the word for the seal itself, from bulla "round swelling, knob," said ultimately to be from Gaulish, from PIE *beu-, a base supposed to have formed words associated with swelling (cf. Lith. bule "buttocks,"
M.Du. puyl "bag").
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

bull in a china shop

An extremely clumsy person, as in Her living room, with its delicate furniture and knickknacks, made him feel like a bull in a china shop. The precise origin for this term has been lost; it was first recorded in Frederick Marryat's novel, Jacob Faithful (1834).

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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