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The meaning and origin of the expression: In my mind's eye

My mind's eye

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'In my mind's eye'?

One's visual memory or imagination.

What's the origin of the phrase 'In my mind's eye'?

The meaning and origin of the phrase 'In my mind's eye'.The concept of us having an 'eye in our mind' is ancient and dates back to at least the 14th century, when Chaucer used it in The Man of Law's Tale, circa 1390:

"It were with thilke eyen of his mynde, With whiche men seen, after that they been blynde."

Many philosophers have considered the nature of consciousness and our ability to form images in our mind. René Descartes formed the notion that we have some sort of inner self in our mind that watches our stream of consciousness as though it were viewing a play in a theatre. Modern neuroscience discounts that idea of duality.

The first actual mention of mind's eye comes before Descartes, in 1577, when Hubert Languet used it in a letter. This was subsequently printed in The Correspondence of Sir Philip Sidney and Hubert Languet, 1845:

"What will not these golden mountains effect ... which I dare say stand before your mind's eye day and night?"

The meaning and origin of the phrase 'My mind's eye'The term probably became known through the work of Shakespeare. He uses it in the best-known of all plays - Hamlet, 1602, in a scene where Hamlet is recalling his father:

Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral baked meats
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.
Would I had met my dearest foe in heaven
Or ever I had seen that day, Horatio!
My father! - methinks I see my father.

Where, my lord?

In my mind's eye, Horatio.

See also: Mind's ear

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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