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Give one’s eye teeth

To give one’s eye teeth is an idiom that dates back to the early 1800s, though the words eye teeth and eye tooth date back to the 1600s. We will look at the meaning of the idiom to give one’s eye teeth and some examples of its use in sentences.

To give one’s eye teeth means to offer something precious in order to gain something or be something. In historic times, eye teeth were considered valuable as a sign that a child had grown its full set of teeth. When one had his eye teeth, he was fully alert with the wisdom of an adult. The eye teeth are the canines, located directly below the eyes and are therefore called the eye teeth. The Oxford English Dictionary lists the words eye tooth and eye teeth as open compound words which consist of two words each, though some dictionaries list them as closed compound words as in eyetooth or eyeteeth. Still other dictionaries accept the hyphenated forms, as in eye-tooth and eye-teeth.

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Examples

Hands up any restaurant owners reading this review who’d give their eye teeth for staff with those qualities? (The Scottish Sun)

Anywhere else in Europe would give their eye teeth for such an unused asset. (The National)

“Leon, most immigration lawyers would give their eyeteeth just to meet John and Yoko.” (Newsweek)

Rose Hong wouldn’t give her eyeteeth for a shot at a $100,000 scholarship, but she might help save yours. (The San Diego Union-Tribune)

No doubt many young Kiwi actors would have given their eye teeth to have the lead role in the new kidult adventure series Terry Teo. (TV Guide Magazine)

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