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[fi-ley, fee-ley] /fɪˈleɪ, ˈfi leɪ/
noun, New Orleans Cookery.
a powder made from the ground leaves of the sassafras tree, used as a thickener and to impart a pungent taste to soups, gumbos, and other dishes.
Also called filé powder.
Origin of filé
1800-10, Americanism; < Louisiana French; literally, twisted, ropy, stringy (perhaps orig. applied to dishes thickened with the powder), past participle of French filer; see file1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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British Dictionary definitions for file-powder


a folder, box, etc, used to keep documents or other items in order
the documents, etc, kept in this way
documents or information about a specific subject, person, etc: we have a file on every known thief
an orderly line or row
a line of people in marching formation, one behind another Compare rank1 (sense 6)
any of the eight vertical rows of squares on a chessboard
(computing) a named collection of information, in the form of text, programs, graphics, etc, held on a permanent storage device such as a magnetic disk
(obsolete) a list or catalogue
(Canadian) a group of problems or responsibilities, esp in government, associated with a particular topic: the environment file
on file, recorded or catalogued for reference, as in a file
to place (a document, letter, etc) in a file
(transitive) to put on record, esp to place (a legal document) on public or official record; register
(transitive) to bring (a suit, esp a divorce suit) in a court of law
(transitive) to submit (copy) to a newspaper or news agency
(intransitive) to march or walk in a file or files: the ants filed down the hill
Derived Forms
filer, noun
Word Origin
C16 (in the sense: string on which documents are hung): from Old French filer, from Medieval Latin fīlāre; see filament


a hand tool consisting essentially of a steel blade with small cutting teeth on some or all of its faces. It is used for shaping or smoothing metal, wood, etc
(rare, Brit, slang) a cunning or deceitful person
(transitive) to shape or smooth (a surface) with a file
Derived Forms
filer, noun
Word Origin
Old English fīl; related to Old Saxon fīla, Old High German fīhala file, Greek pikros bitter, sharp


(transitive) (obsolete) to pollute or defile
Word Origin
Old English fӯlan; related to Middle Low German vülen; see defile1, filth, foul
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for file-powder



"to place (papers) in consecutive order for future reference," mid-15c., from Middle French filer "string documents on a wire for preservation or reference," from fil "thread, string" (12c.), from Latin filum "a thread, string," from PIE *gwhis-lom (cf. Armenian jil "sinew, string, line," Lithuanian gysla "vein, sinew," Old Church Slavonic zila "vein"), from root *gwhi- "thread, tendon." The notion is of documents hung up on a line.

File (filacium) is a threed or wyer, whereon writs, or other exhibits in courts, are fastened for the better keeping of them. [Cowel, "The Interpreter," 1607]
Methods have become more sophisticated, but the word has stuck. Related: Filed; filing.


1520s, "string or wire on which documents are strung," from French file "row," from Middle French filer (see file (v.)). The meaning "arranged collection of papers" is from 1620s; computer sense is from 1954. The military sense "line or row of men" (1590s) is from the French verb in the sense of "spin out (thread); march in file."

metal tool, Old English feol (Mercian fil), from Proto-Germanic *finkhlo (cf. Old Saxon and Old High German fila, Middle Dutch vile, Dutch vijl, German Feile), probably from PIE *peig- "to cut, mark by incision" (see paint (v.)). The verb in this sense is from early 13c., from Old English filian. Related: Filed; filing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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file-powder in Science
A collection of related data or program records stored as a unit with a single name. Files are the basic units that a computer works with in storing and retrieving data.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for file-powder



  1. A pickpocket (1754+ Underworld)
  2. A wastebasket •Often humorously called file 17, the circular file, etc (1940s+)

Related Terms

circular file

[first sense perhaps fr the tool; perhaps related to French filou, ''pickpocket'']

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with file-powder
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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