Vanish into thin air


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Vanish into thin air'?

Disappear without trace.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Vanish into thin air'?

Shakespeare came close to this phrase in Othello, 1604:

Clown:
Then put up your pipes in your bag, for I’ll away. Go; vanish into air; away!

and closer still in The Tempest, 1610:

Prospero:
These our actors, as I foretold you, were all spirits and are melted into air, into thin air

It seems clear that Shakespeare coined the terms thin air (which has been widely used since the 17th century by a diverse collection of authors, including John Milton (1671), William Blake (1800) and Ed McBain (1977) and vanish into air, used by lesser-known author; James Hogg, in his work Mountain Bard, 1807. Shakespeare didn’t put the two together to make vanish into thin air though. The first use I can find of that phrase, which is clearly an adaptation of Shakespeare’s terms, is in The Edinburgh Advertiser, April 1822, in a piece about the imminent conflict between Russia and Turkey:

The latest communications make these visions “vanish into thin air.”

See other phrases and sayings from Shakespeare.

Trend of vanish into thin air 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.