Holy moly

What is the meaning of the phrase ‘Holy moly’?

An exclamation of surprise or astonishment.

What is the origin of the phrase ‘Holy moly’?

The phrase ‘Holy Moly’ or ‘Holy Moley’ is thought to be an alternative way of saying ‘Holy Moses’ or ‘Holy Mary’. These phrases were once said in what is commonly referred to as taking the names of religious figures in vain. These were the old curse words of days gone by. The phrase ‘Holy moly’ allowed for a more acceptable way of making an exclamation of surprise.

There is also a reference to a magical herb called ‘Moly’ in Greek mythology, found in Homer’s “Odyssey”. However, there is no reliable evidence directly linking this mythological reference to the phrase “Holy moly”.

Similar phrases documented in the 1800s and 1900s include ‘Holy smoke’ and ‘Holy cow’. But the phrase ‘Holy moly’ is easier on the tongue due to its rhyming.

The phrase ‘Holy moly’ gained widespread popularity in America through the comic books featuring Captain Marvel (now known as Shazam), dating back to 1939, where the expression was frequently used by Billy Batson, the alter ego of Captain Marvel as a means to show surprise.

What are some notable uses of the phrase ‘Holy moly’?

In addition to its appearance in comic books, the phrase ‘Holy moly’ has also appeared in classic literature, including “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger (1951), and “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White (1952).

The minced oath also occurs in modern film, including “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” released in 1984 and in “The Goonies” released in 1985.

Alternative phrases include ‘Oh my God’ and ‘OMG’.

Trend of holy moly 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.