Dog-ear is an idiom that is surprisingly old. An idiom is a 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, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as in a blue moon, 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, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the idiom dog-ear, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To dog-ear means to turn down the corner of a page of a book so that one may easily find that page again. The image is of a dog’s ear that folds downward. Dog-ear may be used as a noun to mean the folded-down corner of a page of a book, or as a verb, to mean to fold down the corner of a page of a book. Related words are dog-ears, dog-eared, dog-earing. Note that in all inflections, the word is hyphenated. Note that dog-earing is spelled with only one “r.” The term dog-ear came into use in the mid-1600s.


There is one aside which caused me to dog-ear the page, and I never dog-ear pages of hardcover books; a casually included comparison to part of his early life as a hustler, mainly of pirated music, but if it paid, selling anything would do. (The Sydney Morning Herald)

Dog-ear the page that I had circled, and then when I was done going through the book that way, then I’d go back to every dog-eared page and type notes on everything that I’d circled. (The Columbia Journalism Review)

I dog-eared pages, wrote notes in the margins, highlighted, doodled and inscribed my name on all books that entered my personal library, even if they weren’t meant to stay there. (The Homer News)

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