One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
plural nounarchaic, informal
shackles, manacles, handcuffs, irons, leg irons, chains, bondsView synonyms
- ‘The quality of their handcuffs is quite close to darbies that have been made in Great Britain - the fine workmanship differs significantly from the crude stuff that comes from India.’
- ‘The great escapist simply banged the darbies on the pillar and walked off.’
- ‘When he conned Scotland Yard detectives into trying their "darbies" (handcuffs), they locked Houdini's arms around a stone pillar and left him to suffer.’
Late 17th century: allusive use of Father Darby's bands, a rigid form of agreement which put debtors in the power of moneylenders, possibly from the name of a 16th-century usurer.
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