Ivory tower

Ivory tower means a place where one may exist, isolated from the cares of the real world and everyday life. Academics, philosophers and artists are sometimes accused of living in ivory towers, meaning that their ways of thinking are not practical in real-world situations. The image of an ivory tower is used in the Bible in the Song of Solomon to describe a woman’s purity. The modern meaning of the term ivory tower first appears in France in the 1830s as tour d’ivoire to mean an impractical dreamer. The phrase migrated into the English language fifty years later, the meaning possibly reinforced by the appearance of the Hawksmoor Towers at Oxford University’s All Souls’ College which were probably close to an ivory color when the term ivory tower entered the English language. The phrase is sometimes rendered capitalized as in Ivory Tower, but most dictionaries prefer the lowercase form.


At the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, the ivory tower isn’t exactly toppling, but its walls are getting a little more permeable. (The Kenosha News)

“It’s fun and helps take translated literature out of the ‘ivory tower’ and helps combat the idea that reading books from abroad is like eating your vegetables.” (The Los Angeles Times)

But it’s always interesting to see the Ivory Tower come under assault from the very students whose progressive worldviews it works very hard to shape. (The Cornell Review)

The teaching atmosphere the story addressed was in college only, where pay and prestige weren’t so much of a problem, and all of the teachers in question—in a fact that probably accurately reflected the Ivory Tower of the day—were white men. (TIME Magazine)

The warlords sketch out strategies of hitting the opponent’s weak spot from an ivory tower and the fighters don’t have enough time to recover from the first battle before you need to participate in the next one. (The Huffington Post)



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