Idioms

Learn idioms with comprehensive meaning, examples and origin details.

Idioms

don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

also never look a gift horse in the mouth

Meaning

  • don’t be ungrateful when you receive a gift
  • do not be critical of a gift you receive
  • do not refuse something good that is offered
  • do not be unappreciative of or question a gift you have received.

Example Sentences

  1. I know you don’t like the dress very much, but it was a gift; you should not look a gift horse in the mouth.
  2. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, be grateful for what you have received.
  3. He gave his old car as a gift; I know its not a great one, but I wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
  4. It’s not what you were hoping for, but it’s the best he could afford; I would advise you not to look a gift horse in the mouth.
  5. If I were you, I wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Just be grateful that he was kind enough to give you his old watch when you needed one.

Origin
This phrase alludes to the fact that the age, hence the usefulness, of a horse can be determined by looking at its teeth. The expression says that if a horse is given as a gift, you should not look at its teeth to determine its quality. It is an ancient expression and the exact origin is unknown. However, the first print occurrence in English is found in 1546 in John Heywood’s “A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue” (middle English). The phrase can be traced further back to the Latin text of St Jerome, The Letter to the Ephesians, in AD 400.

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