phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Castles in the air

Posted by TheFallen on February 02, 2003

In Reply to: Castles in the air posted by saxon on February 02, 2003

: Can you please help me determine the origin/meaning of the phrase, "Building castles in the air?" Thank you, Saxon

A "castle in the air", used to describe something that is no more than illusory, or a futile flight of fancy, no matter what effort spent in building it, is a proverbial phrase found throughout English (and apparently French) literature.

The two earliest usages that I've been able to track down - after admittedly not very much research - are detailed below:-

"In a word, whoever will consult common sense upon religious opinions, and will carry into the examination the attention given to objects of ordinary interest, will easily perceive that the opinions have no solid foundation; that all religion is but a castle in the air; that Theology is but ignorance of natural causes reduced to a system...." (translated from the French, Michel de Montaigne, 1533-1592)

"And that the Poet hath that Idea, is manifest, by delivering them foorth in such excellencie as he had imagined them: which delivering foorth, also is not wholly imaginative, as we are wont to say by them that build Castles in the aire..." (Sir Philip Sidney, 1554-1586)