Etymology
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life of Riley (n.)

"life at ease," by 1902 (as Reilly), popularized in U.S. during World War I; it seems to have been military slang initially, sometimes said to trace to various songs but none of that title has been found.

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Hobson's choice (n.)
English university slang term, supposedly a reference to Thomas Hobson (c. 1544-1631), Cambridge stable manager who let horses and gave customers a choice of the horse next in line or none at all. Phrase popularized c. 1660 by Milton, who was at Cambridge from 1625-29.
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middle passage (n.)

"part of the Atlantic Ocean which lies between the West Indies and the west coast of Africa," 1788, in the agitation against the trans-Atlantic slave trade, from middle (adj.) + passage.

It is clear that none of the unfortunate people, perhaps at this moment on board, can stand upright, but that they must sit down, and contract their limbs within the limits of little more than three square feet, during the whole of the middle passage. I cannot compare the scene on board this vessel, to any other than that of a pen of sheep; with this difference only, that the one have the advantages of a wholesome air, while that, which the others breathe, is putrid. [Thomas Clarkson, "An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species," 1788]
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