English edit

Etymology edit

From the economics of horse ownership, in which an aging horse of declining value continues to require feeding and stabling. Possibly influenced by the proverb don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

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  • (file)

Noun edit

gift horse (plural gift horses)

  1. (idiomatic) An apparent gift, that has substantial associated costs or drawbacks, especially a gift that does not fit perfectly with the recipient's wants or needs.
    • 1837, Washington Irving, The Adventures of Captain Bonneville:
      Having now, as he thought, balanced this little account of friendship, the captain was about to shift his saddle to this noble gift-horse when the affectionate patriarch plucked him by the sleeve, and introduced to him a whimpering, whining, leathern-skinned old squaw, that might have passed for an Egyptian mummy, without drying. "This," said he, "is my wife; she is a good wife--I love her very much.--She loves the horse--she loves him a great deal--she will cry very much at losing him.--I do not know how I shall comfort her--and that makes my heart very sore."
    • 1996, Daniel Clement Dennett, Darwin's dangerous idea: evolution and the meanings of life, page 352:
      To human beings, on the other hand, each meme vehicle is a potential friend or foe, bearing a gift that will enhance our powers or a gift horse that will distract us, burden our memories, derange our judgment.
    • 1990 Fall, Daniel Tyree McElrath, “Abusing the Privilege”, in Ploughshares, volume 16, number 2/3, page 154:
      "Don't worry. You can keep them. You don't have to pay for them." / Well, a gift horse and all that. I took the sneakers.
    • 2000, Michelle Spring, Running for Shelter, page 164:
      The woman on the telephone in the science-faculty office found me an address for Timothy Butler in no time at all. Full marks for information retrieval. Zero for security. If I had been consulted, I would have insisted that callers produce something more compelling than a vague interest in locating a student before his address could be handed over. Still, what it is they say about a gift horse?
    • 2009, John Hart, The last child:
      You know what they say about a gift horse, man. This is free help. Don't take it for granted.

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