Be My Guest – Idiom, Origin & Meaning

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Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

Idioms are figurative uses of words and phrases that have literal origins but are now used to help add detail and description to speech and text. They can sometimes be confusing to anyone unfamiliar with their origins. However, some idioms stay true to their inception and are easy to understand.

When somebody tells somebody else to be my guest, it isn’t difficult to assume that they mean they are welcome to do something. But occasionally, the context and tone of the phrase can indicate something more than a friendly aside.

Let’s learn about the origins and use of the idiom be my guest and how to use it in various contexts.

What Is the Meaning of Be My Guest?

Be My Guest Idiom Origin Meaning

Be my guest is a fairly recent idiomatic phrase that usually affirms that one is welcome to do something, use something, or make oneself comfortable. The inference is that the person offering the phrase be my guest is being hospitable.

For example:

  • Although he was new to the newsroom and not known to the rest of the staff, the person in front of him smiled and exclaimed, “Be my guest,” while holding the door for him to pass through.
  • When the person behind me in line expressed dismay at my purchase of the last two bakery muffins, I pushed one across the counter to her, commenting, “Be my guest.”

However, the idiomatic phrase is sometimes used sarcastically to indicate a person’s rudeness or lack of graciousness. This use almost always requires the context of the situation and the tone of voice.

For example:

  • If you want an overpriced meal that tastes similar to what you would receive in a drive-through, be my guest; I’ll be going someplace more affordable and tasty.
  • The lady pushed rudely past him as he approached the door, prompting him to glare down at her and mumble, “Well then, be my guest, I guess.”

The Origins of Be My Guest

Obviously, the literal use of telling someone to be my guest refers to the hospitality of treating someone to something or accompanying them somewhere. The term’s use in a more figurative sense is easy to understand and very applicable in various situations.

Its popularization as a way to infer permission to do something or make oneself comfortable was introduced in the 1950s through various advertising campaigns, particularly in Conrad Hilton’s autobiography, Be My Guest, published in 1957.

Let’s Review

The idiomatic use of the phrase be my guest is easily deduced by the literal definition to treat or host somebody with a sense of hospitality. When used figuratively, it is meant to imply a sense of welcoming and comfort about an action.

It can also be used in a sarcastic sense when used in a negative context and with a less-than-friendly tone of voice.

Its figurative use was well documented in the 1950s when it became popular in advertisements and was the title of a well-known autobiography.