Pearls before swine


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Pearls before swine'?

Items of quality offered to those who aren’t cultured enough to appreciate them.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Pearls before swine'?

This expression is usually expressed in the negative proverbial form – ‘don’t cast your pearls before swine’, and is found in the Bible, Matthew 7:6, first appearing in English bibles in Tyndale’s Bible, 1526:

Nether caste ye youre pearles before swyne.

It had existed in the language for some time before that, in various forms. It may have migrated from France, as it is found in a Middle French text from 1402 as ‘jeter des perles aux pourceaux’. It is also found in Middle English, in Langland’s The vision of William concerning Piers Plowman, which is of uncertain date, but appeared around the same time:

Nolite mittere, Man, margerie perlis Among hogges…

The biblical text is generally interpreted to be a warning by Jesus to his followers that they should not offer biblical doctrine to those who were unable to value and appreciate it.

See other ‘Don’t…’ proverbs:

Don’t change horses in midstream

Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched

Don’t get mad, get even

Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face

Don’t keep a dog and bark yourself

Don’t let the bastards grind you down

Don’t let the cat out of the bag

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

Don’t put the cart before the horse

Don’t shut the stable door after the horse has bolted

Don’t throw good money after bad

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

Don’t try to teach your Grandma to suck eggs

Don’t upset the apple-cart

Trend of pearls before swine 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.