dog in the manger


A 1666 etching by Wenceslaus Hollar illustrating the fable of the dog in the manger


From a Greek fable about a dog preventing other animals from eating the hay in a manger, even though as a carnivore it could not eat the hay itself. Although the story was ascribed to Aesop's Fables in the 15th century, no ancient source does so.


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dog in the manger (plural dogs in mangers)

  1. (idiomatic) Someone who denies to others something that he or she cannot use.
    • 1930, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, “Notes on the Way to Dandi”, in Non-Violent Resistance, page 246:
      No adjective is strong enough for characterizing this wicked dog-in-the-manger policy. From various sources I hear tales of such wanton destruction of nations' property in all parts of India.