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The meaning and origin of the expression: All and sundry

All and sundry

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'All and sundry'?

'All and sundry' means 'every one of'; 'containing all different types'.

Our current use of the term sundry items is to mean 'separate items not important enough to be mentioned individually' and that is what people mean when they use the phrase 'all and sundry'.

In fact, that's not suite correct. The sundry in this phrase is an older and less often used meaning of sundry, which is 'entirely separate from'. So 'all and sundry' is intended to convey 'all things', those which we have around us, plus those we don't.

What's the origin of the phrase 'All and sundry'?

The meaning and origin of the expression 'All and sundry'When I was a child there was a drawer in our kitchen sideboard where we kept miscellaneous bits and pieces which didn't have a place anywhere else - string, curtain hooks, scissors, that kind of thing. We called it, for no especially good reason, the rubbish drawer. Perhaps the sundry drawer would have been a better name.

The origin of the phrase 'all and sundry' goes back a long way earlier than my childhood, even though that was some time ago now. In fact it is one of the oldest expressions in English that we still use today. There are examples of it in print in Old English, Middle English and modern-day English. These all derive from Scotland or the north of England.

The meaning and origin of the expression 'All and sundry'The Old English citation is found in the Gospel of Luke in the Lindisfarne Gospels, circa 715AD.

An early example in Middle English is found in William Fraser's Memorials of the family of Wemyss, 1389:

Til there thyngys al and syndry lelily and fermly to be fulfyllyt.

[Until all and sundry things there are loyally fulfilled.]

The phrase came into modern-day English from Scotland. Most of the Middle English citations are from Scottish sources. An early example of the contemporary version of the phrase is from the Church of Scotland's list of regulations The First & Second Book of Discipline, 1621:

Inhibition shall be made to all and sundry persons, now Serving in the Ministery

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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