Banbury story of a cock and a bull


Pub signs of The Cock and The Bull in Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England, UK


Origin unknown. Folk history claims derivation from the rivalry between two inns in Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire, England, one called “The Cock” and the other called “The Bull”, where travellers would congregate to hear fanciful stories told; one such story involved travellers destined for the city of Banbury. However, there is little evidence supporting this etymology.[1]


  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˈbænbɹi ˈstɔːɹi əv ə ˈkɒk ənd ə ˈbʊl/
  • (General American) IPA(key): /ˈbænb(ə)ɹi ˈstɔːɹi əv ə ˈkɑk ənd ə ˈbʊl/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: Ban‧bury story of a cock and a bull


Banbury story of a cock and a bull (plural Banbury stories of a cock and a bull)

  1. (idiomatic, obsolete, slang, Britain) A roundabout, nonsensical story. [from about late 17th c. to early 19th c.]
    • [1725, “BANBURY STORY”, in A New Canting Dictionary: Comprehending All the Terms, Antient and Modern, Used in the Several Tribes of Gypsies, Beggars, Shoplifters, Highwaymen, Foot-Pads, and All Other Clans of Cheats and Villains. [...], London: Printed; and sold by the booksellers of London and Westminster, OCLC 15495158:
      BANBURY STORY, of a Cock and a Bull, an Idle relation, in order to pick Acquaintance on the Road, till a convenient Place and Opportunity offer to rob or plunder.]
    • [1785, [Francis Grose], “Banbury story of a cock and a bull”, in A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, London: Printer for S. Hooper, No. 212, High Holborn, OCLC 520660698:
      Banbury story of a cock and a bull. A roundabout nonſenſical ſtory.]
    • [1856 April 26, Supplement to the Illustrated London News, volume XXVIII, number 796, London: Illustrated London News & Sketch, OCLC 639793048, page 455:
      A Banbury Story of a Cock and a Bull.—The saying "It is a cock and bull story" is common enough, as every one knows, at the present day; but in former times—I mean in the last century—the phrase always ran thus "It is a Banbury story of a cock and a bull." Can you inform me why was Banbury in particular fixed upon as the locality of the story? —Falgate.]
    • 1955, Georgette Heyer, Bath Tangle, London: William Heinemann, OCLC 560208233, page 149:
      Fanny, how is this? I promise you I thought the whole tale a Banbury story, but, upon my soul, what do I find but that fellow closeted with you!
    • 1981, Joan Aiken, The Stolen Lake, London: Jonathan Cape, →ISBN; republished Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin, 2000, →ISBN, page 75:
      Balderdash! Do not seek to pull wool over my eyes, miss! Fabricate me no Banbury stories!
    • 2003, Connie Lane [pseudonym; Constance Laux], The Viscount's Bawdy Bargain, New York, N.Y.: Pocket Books, →ISBN, page 56:
      Nor was she uncaring, mean-spirited or likely to go about spreading a Banbury story of a cock and a bull.
    • 2010, Michelle Styles, chapter 4, in Compromising Miss Milton (Mills & Boon Historical), Richmond, Surrey: Mills & Boon, →ISBN:
      'I never got the chance. Mama sent me to my room for telling fibs.' Nella's bottom lip trembled. 'She threatened to paddle me with a hairbrush. Called it a Banbury story of a cock and bull.'

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  1. ^ Gary Martin (1997–), “A cock and bull story”, in The Phrase Finder, retrieved 28 December 2016.