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  • Looking A Gift Horse In The Mouth: Learning About Proverbs in English

    One of my students recently asked me the meaning of the proverb Never Look a Gift Horse In The Mouth.

     Have you heard this before? Let’s see what it means in this lesson.

    What is a Proverb?

    The word proverb comes from the Latin word proverbium. It is a short and meaningful or pithy saying that expresses some commonly accepted truth or piece or advice.

    What does Looking A Gift Horse In The Mouth Mean?

    Literally, the proverb means that you should never take your good fortune for granted or, in other words, be ungrateful when you receive a gift or have good luck.

    The phrase comes from the fact that a horse’s age can be estimated by the state of its teeth. As horses age their teeth project further farther every year so their age can be guessed by examining how prominent their teeth are.

    Literally, if you receive a horse as a gift, don’t look in its mouth to see how old it is.

    The origin of the saying is unknown however some say it can be traced back to St. Jerome in the 4th century.

    This saying suits another proverb, It’s the thought that counts meaning that it is not so much the gift but the spirit of giving with which it was given that counts.

    Here is a cartoon based on the proverb:

    What do you think this cartoon is trying to say?

    Do you think you have ever looked a gift horse in the mouth? What was the situation?

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