phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Poor as a church mouse

Posted by Smokey Stover on April 06, 2009 at 18:47

In Reply to: Poor as a church mouse posted by Jo Wood on April 06, 2009 at 14:02:

: Poor as a church mouse - where did it originate and exactly why a church mouse is so poor? Is it because there is no food in the church, and what?

The Oxford English Dictionary has this:

"A mouse which inhabits a church. The proverb 'as poor as a church-mouse' is found also in German, and other langs."

The first citation they give of its use in English is from 1731.

If a mouse tries to survive in a church, it will presumably find little food. Even in our time, when church suppers and socials and picnics are common, the food is not actually stored in the church, but in an annex of some kind--if it is stored on the premises at all, and not solely in the homes of the parishioners.

Of course, there may not be such a thing as a church mouse. Even an animal as stupid as a mouse is not going to stay long where food is so scarce. However, I'm prepared to have someone more familiar with churches than I am say that they have personally seen mice scurrying about in some church.