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The meaning and origin of the expression: Set one's teeth on edge

Set one's teeth on edge

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'Set your teeth on edge'?

Literally, to cause an unpleasant tingling of the teeth. More generally, the expression is used to describe any feeling of unpleasant distaste.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Set your teeth on edge'?

The earlier form of the phrase was 'to edge the teeth' and described the feeling of sensitivity caused by acidic tastes, like raw rhubarb.

A Middle English citation of a version of 'teeth on edge' is found in Wyclif's Bible, or to give it its full name The Holy Bible, made from the Latin Vulgate by John Wycliffe and his followers, 1382:

"And the teeth of sones wexen on egge."

The meaning and origin of the phrase 'Set your teeth on edge'Shakespeare used the expression in Henry IV, Part I, 1596:

And I am glad of it with all my heart:
I had rather be a kitten and cry mew
Than one of these same metre ballad-mongers;
I had rather hear a brazen canstick turn'd,
Or a dry wheel grate on the axle-tree;
And that would set my teeth nothing on edge,
Nothing so much as mincing poetry:
'Tis like the forced gait of a shuffling nag.

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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