Have a bee in one’s bonnet

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The idiom have a bee in one’s bonnet has its origins in the 1500s. We will look at the meaning of the term have a bee in one’s bonnet, where the term evolved from and some examples of its use in sentences.

To have a bee in one’s bonnet means to be obsessed with a certain idea, to be preoccupied with something. The term is derived from the Scottish idiom a head full of bees. This term is first found in a translation of Virgil’s Aeneid, rendered by the Scott Alexander Douglas in the mid-1500s: “Quhat bern be thou in bed with heid full of beis?” By the late 1700s, the idiom evolved into have a bee in one’s bonnet, as evinced in Reverend Philip Doddridge’s Letters: “He has, as the Scotch call it, a Bee in his Bonnet.” The idiom is now often used as a an admonishment when someone is too obsessed with a certain idea, as in “Who put a bee in your bonnet?


Mostly, the subtext is that either an ageing critic, an ageing rock star or the combined forces thereof have a bee in their bonnet about the younger generation not being as politically engaged as in the halcyon days of Bob Dylan single-handedly stopping the Vietnam War with meandering folk ballads. (The National)

I have a bee in my bonnet today thanks to a recent letter to the editor in a local newspaper. (The St. Catherines Standard)

That’s nothing against my schools, they were great schools, but I do have a bee in my bonnet now that if my daughter does want to try different sports that she’s encouraged to. (The Express & Star)

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