Regardless of your faith, or lack thereof, it is simply astonishing to learn the number of common English phrases that come from the King James Bible. “A drop in the bucket,” “the root of the matter,” “fight the good fight,” these phrases all got their life from that version of the bible. Yeah. Really. C’est vrai, for our French readers.
The December 2011 issue of National Geographic discusses the history and influence of the King James Bible, and in an article titled “A Bible’s Gift to Language,” it lists several famous phrases the book originated. In the list below, I have included phrases from that article and also phrases I found at the website The Phrase Finder.
Common English phrases from the King James Bible:
A drop in the bucket – Isaiah 40:15
A house divided against itself cannot stand. – Matthew 12:25
A labor of love – Hebrews 6:10
A thorn in the flesh – 2 Corinthians 12:7
All things must pass. – Matthew 24:6
At their wits’ end – Psalms 107:27
Be horribly afraid – Jeremiah 2:12
Coat of many colors – Genesis 37:3
Eat, drink, and be merry. – Ecclesiastes 8:15
Fall from grace – Galatians 5:4
Fight the good fight. – Timothy 6.12
How are the mighty fallen – Samuel 1:19
Know for a certainty – Joshua 23:13
Many are called, but few are chosen. – Matthew 22:14
My cup runneth over. – Psalms 23:5
Out of the mouths of babes – Psalms 8:2
Set thine house in order – Isaiah 38:1
The ends of the earth – Zechariah 9:10
The love of money is the root of all evil. – Timothy 6:10
The root of the matter – Job 19:28
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. – Matthew 26:41
To everything there is a season. – Ecclesiastes 3:1
Turned the world upside down – Acts 17:6
Want to learn more?
There are even more common phrases that were popularized by (but did not originated from) the King James Bible and more phrases that came into the language from earlier versions of the bible. To learn more about those phrases, check out the site I mentioned earlier, The Phrase Finder.
Also, author David Crystal wrote an entire book about this subject, called Begat. Click here to read an interview he did with NPR about his book and to read an excerpt.
6 thoughts on “The King James Bible gave English some awesome phrases”
Thanks so much! Very intriguing stuff!
This is awesome. I had no idea.
I also learnt from a project in my editing class that Shakespeare introduced over 2,000 phrases and invented words we still use today.
Maybe I shouldn’t turn my nose at those wise, old guys with long beards.
And what a coincidence we’ve both just posted on writing/religion 😛
This is wonderful. I intended to write this very blog post myself at my own site (http://grammargeddon.com) but now I’ve linked to yours instead. Win-Win!
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+Karen Conlin (Grammargeddon, one of the moderators on Google+ Community writer’s Discussion Group) led me here. I will link to you on my blog also. Nice article, good blog.
Thanks for the compliment. I love Grammargeddon.