Turn a blind eye

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The idiom turn a blind eye has been in use at least since the early 1800s. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the definition of the phrase turn a blind eye, where it may have come from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To turn a blind eye means to ignore something, to pretend that one does not notice something. While turning a blind eye might mean ignoring a problem that should be taken care of, it may also mean to ignore a faux pas or other embarrassing incident as a kindness. Related phrases are turns a blind eye, turned a blind eye, turning a blind eye. Admiral Horatio Nelson is credited with popularizing the term turn a blind eye. When about to engage in the battle of Copenhagen in 1801, Nelson was signaled from another ship to break off his attack. Nelson is reported to have looked through his spyglass with his blind eye, so as not to receive the message. He went on to win the day. While this story may be apocryphal or it may be true, the idiom turn a blind eye was most probably in use before this time.


The Wahpeton City Council and Richland County Commissioners turn a blind eye to the problem in favor of economic development. (The Wahpeton Daily News)

When asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Black why Alvendia, as a law enforcement officer, did not make some kind of report about the conversation, Alvendia said he “turned a blind eye” to Moser’s and Martinez’s potential for drug-smuggling. (The Guam Daily Post)

The multiple-award-winning film explores how transplant surgeons in China are basically committing murder while hospitals and the Chinese communist regime profit hugely and the world has largely turned a blind eye. (The Epoch Times)