to win something hands down (1855) is from horse racing, from a jockey's gesture of letting the reins go loose in an easy victory.
The Two Thousand Guinea Stakes was not the best contested one that it has been our fortune to assist at. ... [T]hey were won by Meteor, with Scott for his rider; who went by the post with his hands down, the easiest of all easy half-lengths. Wiseacre certainly did the best in his power to spoil his position, and Misdeal was at one time a little vexatious. [The Sportsman, report from April 26, 1840]
Ancient Greek had akoniti "without a struggle, easily," from akonitos (adj.), literally "without dust," specifically "without the dust of the arena."
mid-14c., also simply coat (mid-14c.); originally a tunic embroidered or painted with heraldic armorial bearings (worn over armor, etc); see coat (n.) + arm (n.2) and compare Old French cote a armer. Sense transferred in Middle English to the heraldic arms themselves. Hence turncoat, one who put his coat on inside-out to hide the badge of his loyalty (1550s).
"occasion on which entertainment or profit is derived from injury or death of another," 1860, originally in reference to holidays for gladiatorial combat; the expression seems to be entirely traceable to an oft-quoted passage on a dying barbarian gladiator from the fourth canto (1818) of Byron's "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage":
But where his rude hut by the Danube lay
There were his young barbarians all at play,
There was their Dacian mother. He, their sire,
Butcher'd to make a Roman holiday!
"dense forest in an area of high rainfall with little seasonal variation," 1899, apparently a loan-translation of German Regenwald, coined by A.F.W. Schimper for his 1898 work "Pflanzengeographie."
1940, in reference to U.S. cartoonist Reuben Lucius Goldberg (1883-1970) who devised fantastically complex gadgetry to accomplish simple tasks. His British counterpart was Heath Robinson (1872-1944).
"an occasional pastime, an activity other than that for which one is well-known, or at which one excells," 1963, from French, literally "Ingres' violin," from the story that the great painter preferred to play his violin (badly) for visitors instead of showing them his pictures.
Une légende, assez suspecte, prétend que le peintre Ingres état plus fier de son jeu sur le violon, jeu qui était fort ordinaire, que de sa peinture, qui l'avait rendu illustre. [Larousse du XXe Siecle, 1931]