Kiss the Ring – Meaning and Origin

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Kiss the ring means to show fealty or submissive respect, usually to someone in a position of authority or power. It paints quite a vivid picture, doesn’t it?

You might be imagining a medieval court where lords and ladies bow down to the monarch, pressing their lips to his signet ring in a display of loyalty. And if you are, you’re not far off from the origin of this phrase.

The term kiss the ring belongs to idioms, expressions in English that often convey meanings beyond their literal interpretation. Idioms play a significant role in the richness and nuance of the English language.

So, what’s the backstory of this idiom? How should you use it? Stay with me, and I’ll unpack all the details about its meaning, origin, and proper usage in a sentence.

Kiss the Ring Meaning Explained

Kiss the Ring – Meaning and Origin

To kiss someone’s ring means to show respect or to show subservience to someone, often begrudgingly. This idiom is about submission, reverence, and sometimes even coercion.

In more relaxed or informal contexts, the idiom is used to poke fun at those who are brown-nosers or teacher’s pets.

Kiss the Ring Origin and Etymology

Kiss the Ring Ngram
Kiss the ring usage trend.

Some say that in medieval times, it was customary to show respect to monarchs and bishops by kissing their rings. This act symbolizes a person’s undying respect or submission. Today, we know that it’s common practice in the Catholic church to kiss the pope’s (or church leader’s) signet ring.

The saying, as well as the action behind the saying, is also commonly found in film and television when depicting mob life. Members of the mob often kiss the ring of the mob boss or don. Just think of The Sopranos.

Kiss the Ring Synonyms

  • Bend the knee
  • Toe the line
  • Play ball
  • Brown-nose
  • Suck up

Examples of Kiss the Ring in a Sentence

Kiss the Ring – Meaning and Origin 1

  • Even though he despised the gang’s new leader, he had to kiss the ring to keep his position.
  • She’s always kissing the ring at work. No wonder she gets all the promotions.
  • They don’t respect him; they’re just kissing the ring because he’s wealthy.
  • “I refuse to kiss the ring of someone I don’t trust,” Tim declared.
  • In some careers, certain people feel it’s necessary to kiss the ring to climb the ladder.
  • She didn’t really admire the artist; she was just kissing the ring for connections.
  • You won’t get far in this company if you’re not prepared to occasionally kiss the ring.
  • “I’ve never been one to just blindly kiss the ring,” she mused.
  • He felt like he had spent half his life kissing the ring of every executive at the firm.
  • Kissing the ring might earn you some points now but won’t earn you respect in the long run.

Swearing Fealty to Good Grammar

Kiss the ring is one of those idioms that transport us to another time while still being relevant today. Use it to describe the act of following orders or being loyal to someone or something. And definitely check out my other idiomatic breakdowns like this one!