Phrases and Sayings invented by authors (other than Shakespeare)

Whilst researching for a recent post on words created by authors other than Shakespeare, I found a deluge of phrases that had also come from the hand of writers. Here are my top ten:




Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem Lilian used the term and it was used against him in a negative review before becoming a mainstream phrase.


The female of the species is more deadly than the male

Rudyard Kipling created the phrase in his 1911 poem The Female of the Species.


Banana Republic

Oft-used by judges describing inappropriate government behaviour, the phrase describes a politically unstable and undemocratic nation. The phrase derived from the pen of William Sidney Porter in his short stories entitled Cabbages and Kings.


Fly off the handle

Used first in 1843 by US writer Thomas C Haliburton based on the way that the top of an axe would fly off if loose.


Cloud cuckoo land

A translation from the Greek writer Aristophanes who used the phrase to describe the bird-built city intended to separate the gods from mankind.


A sight for sore eyes

Gulliver’s Travels writer Jonathan Swift created the phrase in his 1738 works ‘A complete collection of genteel and ingenious conversation’.


Cool as a cucumber

The phrase first revealed itself in a poem by John Gay in 1732.


Busy as a bee

Initially used by Chaucer in Canterbury Tales.


Bee in your bonnet

The phrase was first used as far back as 1513 by Alexander Douglas in Aeneis.


A stone’s throw

Although deriving from the bible in a slightly different form (a stone’s cast), the reworked version of the phrase was penned by John Arbuthnot in his 1712 work The History of John Bull.





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