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Cut off your nose to spite your face

The idiom to cut off your nose to spite your face means you shouldn’t do something out of spite or revenge that will end up causing more harm to you than to the person with which you are angry. In other words, do not let your overreaction lead to self-harm.

The phrase is not cut off your nose in spite of your face.

History


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The exact idiom did not appear in print until the 1700’s. However, the idea of causing yourself more harm than your enemy goes back as far as a Latin proverb in the year 1200.  Male ulciscitur dedecus sibi illatum, qui amputat nasum suum. He who cuts off his nose takes poor revenge for a shame inflicted on him.

It became popular in the 19th century in England.

Examples

A spokesperson added: “It is a false economy to reduce investment expenses if this just results in lower investment returns. That would be like cutting off your nose to spite your face.” [Stratford Observer]

“Laying the fiber for the last 10 to 20 feet from the street to your house is a minimum incremental cost. … To lay fiber there and not sell service in those neighborhoods would be to cut off the nose to spite the face. I can’t see them doing that.” [Kansas City Star]

“Some people consult 14 websites before they make a purchase. If you ignore what part social played in that, you’re cutting your nose off to spite your face.” [The Guardian]

Scotland is about to cut its nose off to spite its face, and it knows it. [Forbes]

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