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The meaning and origin of the expression: More honoured in the breach than in the observance

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More honoured in the breach than in the observance

What's the meaning of the phrase 'More honoured in the breach than in the observance'?

Cobbe family portrait of William ShakespeareThis is usually thought to mean a rule which is more often broken than observed. The context of the play shows the real meaning as 'it is more honourable to breach than to observe'.

What's the origin of the phrase 'More honoured in the breach than in the observance'?

From Shakespeare's Hamlet, 1602:

HAMLET Ay, marry, is't:
But to my mind, though I am native here
And to the manner born, it is a custom
More honour'd in the breach than the observance.

See other phrases and sayings from Shakespeare.

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