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swear on a stack of Bibles



Alternative formsEdit

  • swear on stacks of Bibles


From the practice of some people making an oath on a Bible to tell the truth when testifying in court.[1]


swear on a stack of Bibles (third-person singular simple present swears on a stack of Bibles, present participle swearing on a stack of Bibles, simple past and past participle swore on a stack of Bibles)

  1. (idiomatic) To make a promise or give an assurance with great conviction.
    • 1956, Billie Holiday; William Dufty, Lady Sings the Blues, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, OCLC 884533:
      Why not check me into a sanatorium, let them watch me, examine me, give me the tests? In twelve hours they can tell whether I'm lying or not. If I'm clean, I'll be all right. If I'm not, I'll get sick as a dog, start throwing up at both ends, and this would prove I'm a damn liar. It would be better than all the affidavits in the world. I could swear on a stack of Bibles, but who would believe me? [] So I did it. It cost me almost a thousand dollars to pay the doctors to watch me and supervise me down to the last minute so they could go to court and make a statement. I stayed there four days; and when I left, everyone in the place was ready to swear on a stack of Bibles that I was clean.
    • 1962 July 13, “Sheer Coincidence”, in Time[1], archived from the original on 23 August 2013:
      Says L.A. Times Managing Editor Frank McCulloch: "I know it looks bad, but I'll swear on a stack of Bibles it's a sheer coincidence."
    • 2005, Jan Watson, Jerry B. Jenkins, editor, Troublesome Creek, Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., →ISBN:
      “Sissy, promised you won’t tell Daddy. Swear on a stack of Bibles.” He leaned into his sister and sniffled against her chest. / “I promise,” she answered. “Now what is it?” / “Swear, Sissy. Swear on a stack of Bibles!” / Copper yawned mightily, wishing to sink back under the bedclothes. “Oh, Willy, we don’t have a stack of Bibles. Besides, it’s a sin to swear. Just tell me.”
    • 2001, Bryce Courtenay, Four Fires, Middlesex: Penguin Books, →ISBN:
      ‘Swear it! C’mon, swear it on a stack of Bibles!’ / ‘I swear on a stack of Bibles I’ll never tell, cross my heart and hope to die,’ I say, adding the extra bit for good measure.
    • 2003, Kazuko Hirose Kawaguchi, A Social Theory of International Law: International Relations as a Complex System, Leiden; Boston, Mass.: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, →ISBN, page 176:
      Already most of us feel somewhat softer toward Japan than we swore on a stack of Bibles we ever would feel.
    • 2011, P. G. Maxwell-Stuart, Witch Beliefs and Witch Trials in the Middle Ages: Documents and Readings, London; New York, N.Y.: Continuum International Publishing Group, →ISBN Invalid ISBN, page 95:
      From what has been said so far, [] and their many perjuries in front of the judges during interrogation (because don't care about perjuring themselves and drawing down curses upon themselves and swearing on a stack of Bibles), it is clear that, because of their essential nature and formal profession of belief and reception into their congregation, these Waldensians are apostates from the faith, idolaters and guilty of the crime of treason against God; []


  1. ^ Les Harding (2006) Holy Bingo, the Lingo of Eden, Jumpin' Jehosophat and the Land of Nod: A Dictionary of the Names, Expressions and Folklore of Christianity, Jefferson, N.C.: London: McFarland & Company, →ISBN, page 198:

    Swear on a Stack of Bibles An exaggerated affirmation of truthtelling. It is customary in courts for a witness to swear on a Bible while answering yes to the following question: ‘Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?’ To swear on a stack of Bibles presumably carries more significance than swearing on just one.