The many meanings of ‘chuck’ by Angela Caldin

Sometimes I’m struck by the richness of the English language, by how one word can have so many different meanings, arriving as it does by a variety of linguistic routes over the years across Europe and beyond. One such word is chuck which I discover has numerous meanings both as a noun and as a verb.

Chuck as a verb means to throw something carelessly or casually:

  • The family was frightened when someone chucked a brick through their window.
  • Some people can make a living out of stuff other people chuck away.
  • He asked her to chuck him another piece of bread to save him stretching across the table.

It can be used figuratively as in:

  • It’s a mistake to think that chucking money at a problem will solve it.
  • Mary chucked him for another guy.
  • Richard chucked in his course because he could see no prospect of a job at the end of it.

It can be used in particular phrases such as:

  • They decided to stay indoors because it was chucking it down outside.
  • Their landlord chucked them out on the street without notice.
  • She drank so much on an empty stomach that she almost chucked up.

It has a special meaning as in to touch someone playfully under the chin:

  • It annoyed her when passers-by chucked her baby under the chin.

Chuck as a noun has a variety of meanings, many not connected with the idea of throwing:

Dismissal or rejection:

  • The other employees were relieved when the overbearing supervisor got the chuck.

A device for holding a workpiece in a lathe or a tool in a drill, typically having three or four jaws that move radially in and out:

  • She showed him how to adjust the chuck on the drill to accommodate the right sized bit.

A cut of beef from the neck to the ribs, typically used for stewing:

  • I find that chuck steak is economical and very tasty if cooked slowly and for a long time.

A friendly form of address, particularly in the north of England:

  • Can I help you at all, chuck?
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