Twinkle toes

What’s the meaning of the phrase ‘Twinkle toes’?

A nimble person who is quick on their feet.

What’s the origin of the phrase ‘Twinkle toes’?

While there appears to be no story as such behind the phrase “Twinkle Toes”, there is some information that can be gleaned from the phrase’s origins…

The word “Twinkle” comes from the Middle English verb “twinklen” or the Old English verb “twinclian”. The phrase “Twinkle toes” is believed to have originated in the early 1900s, and used as a playful and affectionate term in dance companies and dance classes. It was, and still is, most often used to refer to a person’s dancing as quick, light and graceful. The language used paints a vivid picture of such movement.

The phrase then appears to move to theatre, and to a lesser extent in certain sports, where it often pays to be nimble and light on your feet, as well as light and graceful. This includes the likes of soccer and combat sports. More recently the phrase has also shown up on television and in film.

While the idiom “Twinkle toes” is generally considered to be a compliment, in some circles it’s not always seen as such, particularly when used to refer to effeminate men, although this may change over time.

If you wish to use a variation of this term, you could try “Light-footed”, “Nimble”, “Quick”, or “Agile”.

What are some notable uses of the phrase ‘Twinkle toes’?

The phrase continues to be used in the modern day. There’s a children’s book entitled “Twinkle Toes” by Lillian Elizabeth Roy published in the 1920s, and one called “Twinkletoes: A Tale of Two Kitties” published in the 1990s.

There’s also the silent film “Twinkletoes” which came out in 1926, and an animated film called “Twinkle Toes: The Movie” that came out in 2012. There are also songs called “Twinkletoes” and “Twinkle Toes” by Roy Orbinson, and by Tony Orlando and Dawn respectively in the 1960s and 1970s.

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.