General English

General Science

  • plural noun an area of grass-covered chalky hills with low bushes and few trees


  • noun the small soft feathers of a young bird, or soft feathers below the outer feathers in some adult birds
  • noun an undercoat of very soft hair on a goat


  • adjective used to describe computers or programs that are temporarily not working


  • adjective (of the wicket) in or into a position that results in the dismissal of a batsman. The wicket may be bowled down by the bowler, knocked down by the batsman or his bat, or put down (and occasionally thrown down) by a member of the fielding side making a run out or stumping.
    Citation ‘The wicket-keeper should … take the ball before the wicket and, as he receives it, his hands should be drawn back, putting the wicket down with one motion’ (Nyren 1833 in HM)
    Citation ‘The striker is out Bowled if his wicket is put down by a ball delivered by the bowler’ (Law 30 § 1 (a))


  • Said of a device, piece of equipment, or system which is not operational. Causes include failures, routine maintenance, repairs, and power outages.

Information & Library Science

  • adjective used to indicate that a computer is out of action


  • adjective authentic, trustworthy, sound. The usage may derive from the appreciative sense of down-and-dirty or the phrase down with (someone).

Origin & History of “down”

Effectively, English now has three distinct words down, but two of them are intimately related: for down ‘to or at a lower place’ (11th c.) originally meant ‘from the hill’ – and the Old English word for hill in this instance was dūn. This may have been borrowed from an unrecorded Celtic word which some have viewed as the ultimate source also of dune (18th c.) (borrowed by English from middle Dutch dūne) and even of town. Its usage is now largely restricted to the plural form, used as a geographical term for various ranges of hills (the application to the north and south Downs in southern England dates from at least the 15th century).

The Old English phrase of dūne ‘from the hill’ had by the 10th century become merged into a single word, adūne, and broadened out semantically to ‘to a lower place, down’, and in the 11th century it started to lose its first syllable – hence down. Its use as a preposition dates from the 16th century. (The history of down is closely paralleled in that of French à val, literally ‘to the valley’, which also came to be used for ‘down’; it is the source of French avaler ‘descend, swallow’, which played a part in the development of avalanche.)

Down ‘feathers’ (14th c.) was borrowed from Old Norse dúnn.