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A sight for sore eyes

  • A sight for sore eyes is an idiom that dates to the 1700s. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom a sight for sore eyes, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

     

    A sight for sore eyes is a welcome sight; it is something or someone that one has missed or longed to see. The expression a sight for sore eyes uses the word sore to mean feeling worried or sorrowful. The idiom a sight for sore eyes is credited to Jonathan Swift in his work published in 1738, A complete collection of genteel and ingenious conversation: “The Sight of you is good for sore Eyes.” However, the idiom may have been in use long before Jonathan Swift published it in his work.

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    Examples

    So after three years away, of course the return of the Hong Kong Sevens will be a sight for sore eyes. (South China Morning Post)

    For a team that had gone more than seven periods without seeing its hard work be rewarded with many goals, the second period of RPI’s game against Canisius was a sight for sore eyes. (Times-Union)

    John Abraham was a sight for sore eyes on Friday morning as he appeared shirtless on his balcony. (Times of India)


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