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Make way for the king

Posted by Smokey Stover on February 14, 2009 at 05:10

In Reply to: Make way for the king posted by Graham Cambray on February 14, 2009 at 02:15:

: : : I'm looking for the origin of the phrase "Make way for the king" - any feedback would be much appreciated!

: : Well, one of the meanings of "way" is "Opportunity for passage or advance: freedom from obstruction", and this is the meaning it has in the constructions "give way" and "make way". Obviously kings, emperors, presidents and people being rushed to hospital for lifesaving surgery expect other mortals to get out of their way, and if you don't their minions are likely to shout at you to *make* way. (VSD)

: --------------

: I can point you to some lines by Euripides which takes it back 2400 years:
: At the branching road of Phokis
: The driver of Laius commanded my son:
: "Out of the road, Stranger! Make way for the King!"
: But he walked on without a word, silent in his pride.

: See link.

: But, as Victoria implies, I expect people have been shouting it as long as there have been kings. If topical news is to be believed, maybe the Neanderthals shouted it. (GC)

Euripides was no doubt alive some 2400 years ago, but David Travis was not, and "make way" are his words. Those of Euripides were in Greek. Unless I'm mistaken, which I often am, the question was about the actual words, not about the concept. So if some Neanderthals shouted it, they probably did not do so in English.

In that language, that is, English, the words which were eventually spelled "make way" appeared no later than the 13th century, and not just for the benefit of kings. However, shouting out "make way for ....." eventually led to the elliptical shout, "way, way!" The first use of "way, way" cited by the OED is in Andrew Balfour's 1898 novel, "To Arms."