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Fed up

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on February 05, 2009 at 09:04

In Reply to: Fed up posted by Graham Cambray on February 05, 2009 at 00:57:

: : : I would like to know the origin of the phrase I am "fed up with you". Where does "fed up" come from?

: : I'm not sure what this means exactly. But to get the discussion ball rolling:

: : Fed to the gills - Thoroughly disgusted. It is an American version of the British "fed to the (back) teeth" and fed (up) to the eyelids. Eyelids based on the slang meaning of "gills" for mouth. From "Facts on File Dictionary of Cliches," second edition, edited by Christine Ammer, Checkmark Books, New York, 2006. Page 137.

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: The UK meaning is weaker than "fed to the gills". "Fed up to the back teeth" has been intensified by the second part of the phrase, too.
: The Concise OED has "discontented or bored". As in "I'm fed up with all this snow we've been having" - which is true in my case. The phrase is generally used for something which is felt to have been going on for too long.

: Another forum ( says: British slang first recorded 1900, extended to U.S. by World War I.

: I think that ESC's response (gills/back teeth/eyelids) suggests that the meaning evolved from "having as much food as you can take" to "having experienced as much of something else as you can take". But I don't have references to back this up. (GC)

- Just to say that there is a legend circulating on the internet that "fed up" derives from falconry, in that a hawk which has eaten its fill (i.e. "has fed up") will refuse to fly. This is certainly nonsense, as (a) a full hawk is not disgusted - on the contrary, it's as contented as a hawk can get - and (b) the phrase, according to Cassell's Dictionary of Slang, dates only from the late 19th century, not a great era for hawking. This is one of a clutch of false origins for idioms claimed for falconry: on the Interent and in trashy stocking-filler books such as those written by Albert Jack you'll also see "booze", "cadge", "hoodwink" and "chaperone" attributed, quite without evidence, to falconry. (VSD)