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gild the lily

Definition from Dictionary, a free dictionary
The hardest habit of all to break is the terrible habit of happiness.
Theodosia Garrison
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English

Etymology

A common misquotation of a line from William Shakespeare's 1595 play King John, iv 2:

"To gild refined gold, to paint the lily, to throw a perfume on the violet, to smooth the ice, or add another hue unto the rainbow, or with taper-light to seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish, is wasteful and ridiculous excess."

Pronunciation

Verb

Infinitive
to gild the lily

Third person singular
gilds the lily

Simple past
gilded the lily

Past participle
-

Present participle
gilding the lily

to gild the lily (third-person singular simple present gilds the lily, present participle gilding the lily, simple past and past participle gilded the lily)
  1. (idiomatic) To embellish or improve something unnecessarily; to add superfluous attributes to something.

Quotations

  • 1920, G. K. Chesterton, The New Jerusalem, ch. 4,
    If we are critical of the petty things they do to glorify great things, they would find quite as much to criticise (as in Kensington Gardens) in the great things we do to glorify petty things. And if we wonder at the way in which they seem to gild the lily, they would wonder quite as much at the way we gild the weed.

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