Warts and all

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The phrase warts and all is attributed to a very specific historical figure, though it is hard to prove it. We will look at the meaning of the idiom warts and all, to whom the term is attributed, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Warts and all means including attributes that are not attractive, including all failings and shortcomings. The origin of this idiom is often attributed to Oliver Cromwell, who was Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland in the 1600s. It is said that when it came time for the artist Sir Peter Lely to paint his portrait, Cromwell told him to render his likeness “warts and all“. Cromwell did not care for personal vanity. The first written account of this encounter appears in Horace Walpole’s Anecdotes of Painting in England, written by Horace Walpole in 1764, one hundred years after the fact. While it is possible that Cromwell invented the phrase warts and all, the story is more probably apocryphal. When used as an adjective before a noun the idiom is hyphenated, as in warts-and-all.


“[She said:] ‘I know Peter Morgan keeps about £50,000 at home and I’m going to do this warts and all. (The Guardian)

Now, as part of their Southampton residency, they are asking members of the public to show what Southampton means to them – with a “warts and all celebration” of the city. (The Daily Echo)

Without a warts-and-all stocktake of our slipping results and drastic improvement in the areas of science, technology, engineering and maths, there’s not going to be an innovation nation to get excited about. (The Australian)

That warts-and-all book ended, in 1977, just before the momentous decision to end the racial ban, a move that reshaped the Utah-based faith and propelled it into a global religion. (The Salt Lake Tribune)