Last modified on 22 June 2014, at 19:42

don't look a gift horse in the mouth

EnglishEdit

Alternative formsEdit

EtymologyEdit

Since horses' gums recede as they age, which makes the teeth appear to grow long, checking the teeth of a horse given as a gift is a way of checking for old age.

From earlier given horse: "No man ought to looke a geuen hors in the mouth." —John Heywood, 1546.

The substitution of "gift" for "given" occurred in 1663 in Butler’s Hudibras, because the iambic tetrameter required a shortening:

He ne’er consider'd it, as loth
To look a Gift-horse in the mouth.

Although uncertain, the origin can be traced even further to St. Jerome's "Equi donati dentes non inspiciuntur.", The Letter to the Ephesians, circa AD 400.

ProverbEdit

don't look a gift horse in the mouth

  1. Do not unappreciatively question a gift or handout too closely.

Related termsEdit

TranslationsEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  • Gregory Y. Titelman, Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings, 1996, ISBN 0-679-44554-4, p. 69.