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The meaning and origin of the expression: As easy as pie

As easy as pie

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'As easy as pie'?

Very easy.

What's the origin of the phrase 'As easy as pie'?

As easy as pieThere are many similes in English that have the form 'as X as Y'. These almost always highlight some property - X, and give an example of something that is well known to display that property - Y; for example, 'as white as snow', 'as dead as a dodo' and, risking a group slander action from our noble friends, 'as drunk as a lord'.

How though are pies thought to be easy? They aren't especially easy to make; I know, I've tried it. The easiness comes with the eating - at least, that was the view in 19th century America, where this phrase was coined. There are various mid 19th century US citations that, whilst not using 'as easy as pie' verbatim, do point to 'pie' being used to denote pleasantry and ease. 'Pie' in this sense is archetypically American, as American as apple pie in fact. The usage first comes in the phrase 'as nice as pie', as found here in Which: Right or Left? in 1855:

"For nearly a week afterwards, the domestics observed significantly to each other, that Miss Isabella was as 'nice as pie!'"

Mark Twain frequently used just 'pie' to mean pleasant or accommodating: In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1884,

"You're always as polite as pie to them."

"So he took him to his own house, and dressed him up clean and nice,... and was just old pie to him, so to speak."

Pie was also used at that time for something that was easy to accomplish; for example, in The US magazine Sporting Life, May 1886:

"As for stealing second and third, it's like eating pie."

'Pie in the sky', also an American phrase from around the same time, refers to 'pie' as something pleasant that we are promised we will eventually receive.

The earliest example of the actual phrase 'as easy as pie' that I can find comes from the Rhode Island newspaper The Newport Mercury, June 1887, in a comic story about two down and outs in New York:

"You see veuever I goes I takes away mit me a silverspoon or a knife or somethings, an' I gets two or three dollars for them. It's easy as pie. Vy don't you try it?"

Pie seems to rank right up there with cake in the US lexicon of ease and pleasantry - 'a piece of cake', 'take the cake', 'cake-walk' are all American phrases from the 19th century.

See other 'as x as y similes'.

See other phrases that were coined in the USA.

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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