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ivory tower

English

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Etymology

The term was first used in Song of Solomon 7:4, but its meaning is different. Its current meaning seems to be from French tour d'ivoire, in an 1837 poem by Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, where it is used to describe the poetical attitude of Alfred de Vigny as contrasted with the more socially engaged Victor Hugo. The first known written use in English is H. L. Bergson's Laughter (1911) by Frederick Rothwell and Cloudesley Shovell Henry Brereton.[1]

Pronunciation

Noun

Singular
ivory tower

Plural
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ivory tower ({{{1}}})
  1. (idiomatic) A sheltered, overly-academic existence or perspective, implying a disconnection or lack of awareness of reality or practical considerations.
    Such a proposal looks fine from an ivory tower, but it could never work in real life.

Quotations

  • 2005 — Daniel Walker, Valedictory speech for Hamilton College
    Hamilton College is an ivory tower with an open bar, and so I - who work and play equally hard - have come to love this place, and have been dead-set against leaving it.

Translations

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Last modified on 7 November 2008, at 19:54