Grin like a Cheshire cat

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Grin like a Cheshire cat : Phrases


A broad smile.



The British satirist Peter Pindar (John Wolcot) first used this expression for a broad smile in the late 18th century, but Lewis Carroll popularized it in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). The Cheshire cat in the story gradually faded from Alice’s view, its grin the last part of it to vanish.

Alternative: To grin like a Cheshire cat probably goes back much further than Pindar, and the source could be Cheshire cheeses that were at one time molded in the form of a cat – supposedly the cat was grinning because the former palatine of Cheshire once had regal privileges in England, paying no taxes to the crown.

Alternative: Another story relates the expression to the attempts of an ignorant sign painter to represent a lion rampant on the signs of many Cheshire inns – his lions supposedly looked more like grinning cats.

Alternative: The most unlikely yarn credits a forest warden of Cheshire named Caterling. In the reign of Richard III this Cheshire Caterling stamped out poaching, was responsible for over 100 poachers being hanged, and was present “grinning from ear to ear” at each of these executions. To grin like a Cheshier Catling became proverbial and was later shortened to grin like a Cheshire cat.

Alternative: Another fanciful story makes the same Catling the cat of the nursery Hi Diddle Diddle, the Cat and the Fiddle.

Credit to Word And Phrase Origins, Robert Hendrickson, 1997

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