Add insult to injury

What’s the meaning of the phrase ‘Add insult to injury’?

Making things even worse.

What’s the origin of the phrase ‘Add insult to injury’?

This is a very old saying, dating back as far as the year 25 BC. It appears in a fable written by Phaedrus, which tells the story of ‘The Bald Man and the Fly.’

In the story, a fly stings the head of a bald man. When the man swats at the fly trying to kill it, the fly moves, and the man ends up hitting himself instead. Thus he not only gets bitten, but he makes things worse for himself by hitting his head.

The fly says to him ‘You wished to kill me for a mere touch, What will you do to yourself now that you have added insult to injury?‘

There is also thought to be another fable written around the same time. In this story, a fisherman catches a fish, and when he removes the fish from his net, the fish pricks his hand. To add insult to injury, the fisherman ends up throwing the fish back into the water. The fish then proceeds to mock him with a statement that’s the moral of the story, which is ‘You should be grateful for what you have, instead of being greedy for more.’

The first known written incidence of the phrase in English was in 1748, in the five act comedy The Foundling, written by Edward Moore.

Phrases of similar meaning include ‘Rub salt into the wound,’ ‘Twist the knife in the wound,’ ‘Add fuel to the fire,’ ‘Kick a man when he’s down,’ and ‘Fan the flames’. Alternatively, you could also use words such as exacerbate, irritate, or aggravate.

What are some notable uses of the phrase ‘Add insult to injury’?

There’s a song called ‘Add insult to injury’ that came out in 2006 by Lucie Silvas, and one called ‘Insult to injury’ that came out in 2008 by Rachael Yamagata. The phrase ‘add insult to injury’ also appears several times in the TV show ‘The Simpsons’.

Trend of add insult to injury in printed material over time

Cari Mayhew - Author at Phrase Finder

Cari Mayhew

Lifelong learner, phrase fanatic, and lover of literature across multiple genres. Cari Mayhew has a passion for expression, and a keen curiosity for how phrases begin and how their use transforms over time. She is often found looking for the ideal idiom to convey her thoughts and musings.