Did someone say ‘born with a silver spoon in their mouth,’ and you’re wondering what it means? In this article, we’ll take a look at the meaning, origin, examples, and more.
Sometimes, it is meant to imply that the individual doesn’t even realize that they were born with an advantage financially, socially, and professionally.
‘Born with a silver spoon in their mouth’ is an idiom that means that a person was born into a wealthy family. ‘Silver spoon’ is used as a synonym for great riches and can be used to describe someone who comes from a well-to-do family environment or a prosperous background.
Oftentimes, this phrase is used with the connotation that the wealthy individual might not fully realize the lucky financial, social, and professional circumstances they find themselves in. The implication is that the advantage that they have is inherited and not earned.
This is a phrase that is often used to refer to someone that has been rich from birth. A person that fits the description of this idiom was born into a high social position. There is a bit of a connotation that the individual is out of touch with people of more average wealth because of their experience.
As with many idioms, there are a number of different theories as to where this phrase comes from.
One common notion is that the original idiom was ‘born with a silver spoon’ and has nautical origins. It comes from young men that would enter the Royal Navy without having to take an exam and could rest assured that they’d be promoted. The phrase to describe those who weren’t quite so lucky was “born with a wooden ladle.”
On the other hand, the phrase is also found in print in English as early as 1719. This comes in a translation of Don Quixote (also an early source of another idiom, ‘the pot calling the kettle black):
"Mum, Teresa, quoth Sancho, 'tis not all Gold that glisters [sic], and every Man was not born with a Silver Spoon in his Mouth."
This is actually a translation of an existing Spanish proverb that has a literal meaning different from the English proverb:
“muchas veces donde hay estacas no hay tocinos”
(Literal translation) "often where there are hooks [for hanging hams] there are no hams"
Due to the way that the English translator translated the text in 1721, the thought is that this idiom was already a proverbial English phrase.
Here’s an example from the 1826 publication The Log Book, which references the potential nautical origin of the idiom:
For all that he has endured, our marine has only been made a gunner’s mate; but “one man is born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and another with a wooden ladle.” Poor Bill was not a spoon-bill. He was brought up to the sea; for he was born on board ship, cradled on the ocean, schooled in the fleet, and should have married a mermaid; but, as the tale goes, she jilted him, and he took up with Nancy Dawson, with whom he fell in love because she was so like the ship’s figurehead.”
Another example can be found in the 1830 publication The Christmas Books of Mr. M.A. Titmarsh by William Makepeace Thackery:
“‘I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth,’ says Gray gravely. ‘That fork is the only one we have. Fanny has it generally.’”
For a third example, we look to the 1819 publication The Ton:
“It is an old maxim said Quidnunc, whilst reading the papers, that some men are born with a silver spoon in their mouths, but I now see that others go to bed with a silver spoon in their hands. A word to the wise.”
Sometimes, it can be useful to gain a better understanding of how phrases are used within the context of a sentence. This can help us understand how a person might incorporate the phrase into everyday speech.
How would this idiom be used in a sentence? Let’s take a look at some examples:
The idiom ‘born with a silver spoon in their mouth’ is used to describe someone that was born into a very wealthy family. It can sometimes imply that they have been so coddled by their experience that they don’t even realize that they have an advantage over others.
Are you ready to learn more English phrases and expand your vocabulary? Be sure to check out our idioms blog for idioms, expressions, sayings, and more!
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