One of the twelve signs of the Zodiac (April 20 to May 21). The time for ploughing, which in Egypt was performed by oxen or bulls.
At last from Aries rolls the bounteous sun, And the bright Bull receives him.
Thomson: Spring, 26, 27.
The edict of the Emperor Charles IV. (1356) had a golden bulla, and was therefore called the golden bull. (See Golden Bull.)
A public-house sign, the cognisance of the house of Clare. The bull and the boar were signs used by the partisans of Clare, and Richard, Duke of Gloucester (Richard III.).
A bull in a china shop. A maladroit hand interfering with a delicate business; one who produces reckless destruction.
He may bear a bull that hath borne a calf (Erasmus: Proverbs)
“He that accustometh hym-selfe to lytle thynges, by lytle and lytle shalbe able to go a waye with greater thynges” (Taverner).
“One would think, in personifying itself, a nation would ... picture something grand, heroic, and imposing, but it is characteristic of the peculiar humour of the English, and of their love for what is blunt, comic, and familiar, that they have embodied their national oddities in the figure of a sturdy, corpulent old fellow ... with red waistcoat, leather breeches, and a stout oaken cudgel ... [whom they call] John Bull.” —Washington Irving.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894