The bowels of the earth


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Thus far into the bowels of the land'?

The dark interior of the earth.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Thus far into the bowels of the land'?

The simile that associates the bowels with the dark visceral centre of things is of long standing. The first known use of it is in Peter Morwyng’s translation of The treasure of Evonymus, 1559:

“Sum put to it wormes or bowels of the earth.”

Shakespeare was very fond of the imagery of ‘the bowels of’ and used it in several of his plays. In King Henry IV, Part I, 1596, he has Hotspur refer to ‘the bowels of the harmless earth’. In Richard III, 1594, he used ‘the bowels of the land’. In other plays he referred to ‘the bowels of’ – ‘the battle’, ‘the commonwealth’, ‘the French’, ‘thy sovereign’s son’, ‘the Lord’ and ‘ungrateful Rome’.

Trend of the bowels of the earth in printed material over time

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.

Gary Martin

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.