At someone’s elbow

Immediately beside someone, close by, as in The apprentice was constantly at the master’s elbow. Why this idiom focuses on the elbow rather than the arm, shoulder, or some other body part is not known. Moreover, it can mean either that someone is so nearby as to constitute a nuisance or in order to readily provide assistance. Either can be meant in the example above. [ Mid-1500s ]


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  • At someone’s feet, be

    Also, sit at someone’s feet. Be enchanted or fascinated by someone, as in Dozens of boys are at her feet, or Bill sat at his mentor’s feet for nearly three years, but he gradually became disillusioned and left the university. [ Early 1700s ] For a quite different meaning, see under one’s feet

  • At someone’s heels

    Also, on someone’s heels . Immediately behind, in close pursuit. This idiom is used both literally, as in Jean’s dog was always at her heels , and figuratively, as in Although his company dominated the technology, he always felt that his competitors were on his heels . This idiom appeared in the 14th-century romance Sir […]

  • At someone’s request

    On being asked to do something, as in At my request they’ll move us to another room, or I’m speaking at his request. [ 1300s ] Also see: by request

  • At someone’s mercy

    see: at the mercy of

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