Kiss someone’s ring

Kiss someone’s ring is an idiom with an interesting history. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom kiss someone’s ring, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To kiss someone’s ring means to show respect or to show subservience to someone. The idiom is used in a figurative sense, of course, but like many idioms, it is derived from a literally use of the phrase. For thousands of years, kissing the ring of a superior has been a sign of respect and obedience. The ring was often a signet ring that held a coat of arms or seal that designated the power of an office; kings and other nobility and church bishops and popes all wore these important rings as a sign of the power of their office. Even today, bishops and popes wear such rings and some people still kiss these rings as a sign of fealty and respect. More often, however, the expression kiss someone’s ring is used in a derisive fashion; the person said to be figuratively kissing the ring is considered weak and the person demanding his ring be kissed is considered to be vain or smug. Related phrases are kisses someone’s ring, kissed someone’s ring, kissing someone’s ring.


Trump is enjoying leaving his plans unclear so he can lure various GOP hopefuls to Mar-a-Lago to kiss his ring. Later, Trump can use their courtship against them. (Everett Herald)

And self-appointed Guardians of the Discourse still fly to L.A. to kiss his ring, both because they enjoy the spotlight AND because there’s reportedly a first-class ticket to L.A. involved, along with an appearance fee and maybe a nice dinner at Spago. (GQ Magazine)

“The problem that Murdoch has is that he’s had all this power, and suddenly people who were kissing his ring don’t have to kiss his ring anymore.” (The New Yorker)

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