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(plural flys). A hackney coach, a cab. A contraction of Fly-by-night, as sedan chairs on wheels used to be called in the regency. These “Fly-by-nights,” patronised greatly by George, Prince of Wales, and his boon companions, during their wild night pranks at Brighton, were invented 1809 by John Butcher, a carpenter of Jew Street.

“In the morning we took a fly, an English term for an exceedingly sluggish vehicle, and drove up to the Minister's.” —Hawthorne: Our Old House (Pilgrimage to Old Boston, p.171).


(plural flies). An insect. All flies shall perish except one, and that is the bee-fly. (Koran.)

A Fly
has three eyes and two compound eyes, each of which has 4,000 facets. The god of flies. In the temple of Actium the Greeks used to sacrifice annually an ox to the god of flies. Pliny tells us that at Rome sacrifice was offered to flies in the temple of Hercules Victor. The Syrians undoubtedly offered sacrifice to the same tiny tormentors. It is said that no fly was ever seen in Solomon's temple.

ACHOR, god of the Cyrenians, to whom, according to Pliny, they offered sacrifice. (APOMYIOS, a surname given by the Cyrenians to Zeus, for delivering Herakles [Hercules] from flies during sacrifice. Sacrifices were yearly offered to Zeus Apomyios. (Greek, apo-myia, from flies.)

BELZEBUB or BEELZEBUTH (Prince of Flies) was one of the principal Syrian gods, to whom sacrifice was offered on all ferialia.

BUCLOPUS, in Roman mythology. (Rhod. xxii. 3.)

MYAGROS (the fly-chaser), one of the deities of the Arcadians and Eleans. (Pliny, x. 28.) (Greek, myia a fly; agra, taken in hunting or chasing.)

Flies in amber.
(See under Amber.)

To crush a fly on a wheel.
Making a mountain of a mole-hill. Taking a wheel used for torturing criminals and heretics for killing a fly, which one might destroy with a flapper.

Fly on the coach-wheel
(A). One who fancies himself of mighty importance, but who is in reality of none at all. The allusion is to the fable of a fly sitting on a chariot-wheel and saying, “See what a dust we make!”

Not a fly with him.
Domitian, the Roman emperor, was fond of catching flies, and one of his slaves, being asked if the emperor was alone, wittily replied, “Not a fly with him.”

To rise to the fly.
To be taken in by a hoax, as a fish rises to a false fly and is caught.

“He [the professor] rose to the fly with a charming simplicity.” —Grant Allen: The Mysterious Occurrence in Piccadilly, part ii.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894

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