Forty Winks – Idiom, Meaning & Origin

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Feeling a bit drowsy and considering taking a quick snooze? You may want to catch 40 winks. But just what is the 40 winks meaning, and where did this strange idiom come from? Rest your weary head as I unravel all the details surrounding this slumber-filled phrase with its origin and a few sentence examples.

Is Forty Winks an Idiom?

Forty Winks – Idiom Meaning Origin

You bet it is! Forty winks is a wonderfully whimsical idiom that perfectly encapsulates those brief yet blissful moments of rest and rejuvenation we usually take on the couch on a Sunday afternoon.

How Long Is 40 Winks Sleep?

While it’s tempting to think that each wink might represent a minute of sleep, giving us a total of 40 minutes, it isn’t exactly a good night’s sleep. In fact, 40 winks is just a figure of speech we use to allude to a short nap, regardless of its exact duration.

Forty Winks Meaning Explained

Basically, the term 40 winks just means a short sleep or nap that you usually take during the day. It’s used when someone wants to relax and recharge their batteries without committing to a full night’s sleep. Think of it like a power nap or a cat nap.

40 Winks Origin and Etymology

Forty Winks Ngram
Forty winks usage trend.

The term 40 winks became popular during the 17th century and was first used by none other than Shakespeare himself in his work “A Winter’s Tale” in the early 1600s. The line read, “…be-spice [drug] a Cup, To give mine Enemy a lasting Winke. Forty is more ambiguous.”

It was also documented in print in William Kitchiner’s “The Art of Invigorating and Prolonging Life” in 1821.

You’ll find the number 40 used in tons of different contexts to mean an unspecified but significant amount, which is how it found its place in our sleepy-time vocabulary.

Catch Forty Winks Synonyms

Looking for some alternatives to this dreamy phrase? Here are a few you can use instead.

  • Catnap
  • Siesta
  • Short sleep
  • Power nap
  • Quick nap
  • Snooze
  • Doze
  • Short rest
  • Brief sleep
  • Downtime

Any of these terms and phrases can be used in place of forty winks because they all present a similar idea.

Forty Winks Sentence Examples

Forty Winks – Idiom Meaning Origin 1

  • After a long meeting, I need to catch forty winks.
  • Before the night shift, she caught forty winks to feel refreshed.
  • He tried to get forty winks on the plane.
  • After lunch, a quick forty winks can be really revitalizing.
  • Even though he wanted to catch forty winks, his busy schedule wouldn’t allow it.
  • I’ll just grab forty winks before we head out to the party.
  • To ward off jet lag, she tried to catch forty winks during the flight.
  • If you’re feeling tired, go and have forty winks.
  • I usually have forty winks after dinner to recharge.
  • The baby finally settled down for forty winks, giving her parents some much-needed rest.

Sleep Well With the 40 Winks Meaning!

Now you’re all set to use 40 winks in your conversations and write like a pro. No need for counting sheep to get to sleep — you’re already ahead of the game! So next time you need to take a quick nap, don’t hesitate to catch those forty winks. You’ll need it if you want to read all my idiom guides!