Origins of English Idioms


As you already know, there are over 15,000 idioms in the English language and you’d better learn at least some of them. But as you encounter an idiom after idiom, you have to be at least slightly curious how they were originated and became widely used. Some of them were coined by the great writers, others came from the Bible, and a lot of them came from French and Latin.

Shakespeare alone is credited with adding over a hundred idioms, many of which you definitely know. Phrases like “a fool’s paradise” and “a sorry sight” date back to the 17th century and yet, they are still used in the everyday speech. He was also the first to compare envy to a green-eyed monster and the first to capture the essence of love in now immortal expression “love is blind.” If you want to learn more about phrases like “good riddance” and “wild goose chase” – and yes, they also belong to Shakespeare - follow this link.

Throughout the centuries, English been greatly influenced by other languages. English, as we know it today, has a lot of words of French, Latin and Greek origin. The Gallic language, French, brought many unmistakably graceful and sophisticated expressions, and phrases like a la mode, a la carte and double-entendre are very widely used in written and spoken English. You can find a comprehensive list of the most common idioms of French origin here.

There is a lot of idiomatic expressions of Latin origin in the contemporary English. Most of them pertain to law, medicine and politics, but others like status quo, et cetera and alter ego are more universal. See how many of the Latin expressions you know at the link – we bet you will be pleasantly surprised!

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  • Learn English It is Your Language
  • March 18, 20129:16 am
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