Feet of clay

The phrase feet of clay is an idiom that dates to the mid-1700s. We will examine the definition of the expression feet of clay, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Feet of clay means a fatal flaw, a negative characteristic or attribute that is hidden in an otherwise admirable human being. The expression feet of clay is applied to someone who seems to be a paragon of virtue or is exceptionally prominent or well-thought of in the community. For instance, a champion of civil rights who is also a womanizer may be said to have feet of clay. A captain of industry who also has a drug problem may be said to have feet of clay. Synonyms for the phrase feet of clay that may be found in a thesaurus are flawed, weak, irresolute. The idiom feet of clay may be traced to a certain passage in the Old Testament of the Bible. In the Book of Daniel, the prophet Daniel interprets a dream for King Nebuchadnezzar. In the dream, the king sees a richly made idol that has feet made of clay: “This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.” From this image, Daniel predicted the breaking apart of the king’s empire.

Examples

It has been long known that idols have feet of clay, which is why there is that phrase about idols’ clay feet, but nowadays, the spin doctors have to twirl twice as fast just to stay in the same place. (The Los Angeles Times)

The cast includes Henry Perkins, an insignificant London accountant solidly situated in the English middle class who just received the best birthday present ever; Jean Perkins, Henry’s wife — a pretty, ordinary middle class English housewife leading an ordinary life; Betty Johnson, a buxom and cheerful housewife and a woman who can think on her feet, who, along with her husband, is best friends with the Perkinses; Vic Johnson, Betty’s husband, a brash man with feet of clay who seems to be a step behind everyone else; Davenport, a detective sergeant who’s seen it all and wants a piece of the action; Slater, another police officer, a solicitous and kindly soul until provoked; and Bill, a cabbie who is full of spirit and very resourceful. (The Newtown Bee)

Unfortunately, today so many of our heroes have feet of clay that I deplore casting mud on the image of a truly great hero. (The Buffalo News)

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