Grin like a Cheshire cat

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The idiom grin like a Cheshire cat was popularized by the children’s story Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, published in 1865. However, Carroll did not invent the term grin like a Cheshire cat. We’ll look at the meaning of this term, its probable origins, and some examples of the phrase’s use in a few sentences.

To grin like a Cheshire cat means to smile broadly. Some definitions of the term stipulate that the smile must be so broad as to expose the gums. The idiom grin like a Cheshire cat may have the connotation that the person who is grinning is in possession of knowledge that the beholder is not aware of. Another connotation may be a slight malevolence. These connotations are due to the appearance of the Cheshire cat in the children’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In the story, the Cheshire cat is somewhat inscrutable, and it disappears leaving only its unnerving smile. The term grin like a Cheshire cat predates the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by at least seventy-five years, if not longer. Cheshire is a county in England that is known for its milk and cheese products, surely a reason for Cheshire cats to smile. There are various stories about painted signs depicting poorly-drawn lions in Cheshire county in the early 1800s. The most intriguing story may be that at one time a cheese was manufactured in Cheshire county that was shaped like a cat. The cheese was eaten from tail to head, leaving the cat’s smile as the last part of the cheese to be consumed. How cheese sellers induced their customers to cooperate in their method of cheese-eating is unrecorded. Note that the word Cheshire is capitalized in the term grin like a Cheshire cat, as it is a proper place name. Related idioms are grins like a Cheshire cat, grinned like a Cheshire cat, grinning liked a Cheshire cat, smile like a Cheshire cat, smiles like a Cheshire cat, smiled like a Cheshire cat, smiling like a Cheshire cat.


LEIGH Griffiths admits he is purring at the prospect of being back among the cream of Europe – and it’s no wonder Peter Lawwell is still grinning like a Cheshire Cat. (The Scottish Daily Record)

“He smiled like a Cheshire cat and said, ‘It’s been 20 years. They haven’t caught me yet,’” she said of a conversation she had with her father when he was in jail in New York in December 2012 awaiting trial for the murder of his son, Levi Karlsen. (The Calaveras Enterprise)

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