phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

The Phrase Finder

The meaning and origin of the expression: Between two stools

Browse phrases beginning with:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ - Full List

Between two stools


Fail, due to being unable to choose between two alternatives.


This is an old phrase. It is first cited in John Gower's Confessio Amantis, 1390:

"Bot it is seid - Betwen tuo Stoles lyth the fal..."

Matthew Prior - between two stoolsThe first recorded use in modern English is in Matthew Prior's comic poem Alma; or, The Progress of the Mind, 1717:

Now which were wise, and which were fools?
Poor Alma sits between two stools;
The more she reads the more perplex'd,
The comment ruining the text:
Now fears, now hopes her doubtful fate.