piece of work

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piece of work (plural pieces of work)

  1. A product or manufactured article, especially an item of art or craft.
    • 1996, David Ansen "The Killer And The Nun (film review)," Newsweek, 8 Jan.,
      “Dead Man Walking” is a powerful and intelligent piece of work.
  2. (idiomatic, often derogatory) A person who has a strong and unusual personality, especially one with seriously unpleasant character flaws (e.g. a nasty piece of work).
    • 1911, Gabrielle Emilie Jackson, Peggy Stewart at home[1], page 259:
      Ugh! She's a piece of work.
      "A rotten, bad piece, I'd call it," answered Wheedles under his breath.
    • 1991, "Music: The Ballads Of Shirley Horn," Newsweek, 29 Apr.,
      She built a reputation as a piece of work; if she didn't like a crowd, sometimes she'd walk off stage in midset and call a cab home.
    • 2007, Elizabeth Keenan, "Australia's New Order," Time, 25 Nov.,
      Known as Pixie for his fresh looks, and Dr Death for his cold stare of disapproval, Rudd was said to have few friends in Canberra. Former Labor leaders Paul Keating and Mark Latham described him, respectively, as "a menace" and "a terrible piece of work".

Related terms[edit]


  • Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1989.