Kiss someone’s ring

Kiss someone’s ring is an idiom with an interesting history. 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.

Examples

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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