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Also, ghost of a chance. An extremely slim chance, a hopeless undertaking. Both versions are most often put negatively, as in He hasn't a Chinaman's chance of finishing the work in time, or They haven't a ghost of a chance to get as far as the playoffs. The first term, now considered offensive, dates from the late 1800s when many Chinese immigrants came to work in California and were resented because they worked for lower wages. Its precise allusion is unclear. The variant, which relies on the meaning of ghost as an insubstantial shadow, dates from the mid-1800s. Also see the synonyms fat chance; not an earthly chance.
THINGAMABOB OR THINGUMMY: CAN YOU DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE US AND UK TERMS IN THIS QUIZ?
Do you know the difference between everyday US and UK terminology? Test yourself with this quiz on words that differ across the Atlantic.
Question 1 of 7
In the UK, COTTON CANDY is more commonly known as…
Words nearby Chinaman's chance
china closet, Chinagraph, China grass cloth, China ink, Chinaman, Chinaman's chance, chinampa, Chinan, Chinandega, China rose, China Sea
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.