The idiom “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” is used to convey that one should not be ungrateful or overly critical of a gift received, regardless of its value or the intentions behind it. It suggests appreciating generosity without scrutinizing it.
This idiom is often employed when someone is questioning the value or sincerity of a gift or a favor, implying that they should be grateful instead of doubtful or critical.
For instance, if someone receives a gift and questions its value or the giver’s motives, they might be reminded, “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”
Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth Idiom Origins
The phrase has its roots in ancient times, with the earliest recorded usage found in the writings of St. Jerome in 400 AD, in his commentary on the Letter to the Ephesians. The idiom is derived from the practice of assessing a horse’s age and health by examining its teeth.
And as we can see from Google’s historical data based on scans of books and newspapers, this idiom has a long history in the English language:
Here’s a brief overview of its origin:
- Assessing Horse’s Age: In ancient times, a common way to determine a horse’s age and health was by looking at its teeth. The length and degree of wear of the teeth would give an indication of the horse’s age and condition.
- Gratitude Over Scrutiny: The idiom suggests that when receiving a horse as a gift, it would be rude and ungrateful to inspect its teeth to assess its value. Instead, one should appreciate the generosity of the gift without scrutinizing its worth.
Today, using the phrase “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” implies that one should be thankful for gifts and not overly critical or suspicious of them.
15 Examples in a Sentence
- “When John questioned the quality of the free meal, his friend reminded him not to look a gift horse in the mouth.”
- “Even though the sweater was not her style, she didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth and thanked her aunt warmly.”
- “Receiving used books might seem unexciting, but you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”
- “The car may be old, but don’t look a gift horse in the mouth – it’s still a generous gift!”
- “He was given free tickets to the game and wisely didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”
- “Though the bonus was smaller than expected, employees didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”
- “She was advised not to look a gift horse in the mouth when offered a role in the play.”
- “The internship was unpaid, but he didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth and accepted the valuable experience.”
- “When given a hand-me-down bicycle, the child was taught not to look a gift horse in the mouth.”
- “The gift card wasn’t for her favorite store, but she didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”
- “Receiving a discount, no matter how small, is still a saving; don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”
- “Though the meal was simple, the guests didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth and enjoyed the evening.”
- “The neighbors offered to help with the move; it was not the time to look a gift horse in the mouth.”
- “He was given an older model laptop, but he didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth and was grateful.”
- “The prize might not be extravagant, but the winners didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”
1. Beggars can’t be choosers
Definition: People who receive something for free have no right to complain about it.
In a Sentence: “It might not be a gourmet meal, but beggars can’t be choosers.”
2. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you
Definition: Do not act ungratefully towards those who help you.
In a Sentence: “Complaining about your salary? Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”
3. Grin and bear it
Definition: Accept a difficult situation without complaining.
In a Sentence: “The accommodations are modest, but we’ll just have to grin and bear it.”
4. Take it or leave it
Definition: Accept the offer as it is or reject it; no alterations can be made.
In a Sentence: “That’s my final offer – take it or leave it.”
5. It’s the thought that counts
Definition: The value of a gift is the thought behind it, not its price.
In a Sentence: “It may not be expensive, but it’s the thought that counts.”
6. Count one’s blessings
Definition: Be grateful for what one has.
In a Sentence: “Instead of complaining, count your blessings.”
7. Half a loaf is better than none
Definition: Getting less than what one wants is better than getting nothing at all.
In a Sentence: “It’s not the full amount, but half a loaf is better than none.”
8. Don’t be ungrateful
Definition: Appreciate what you receive.
In a Sentence: “You may not like it, but don’t be ungrateful.”
9. Better than a poke in the eye
Definition: Even if it’s not ideal, it’s better than nothing.
In a Sentence: “It’s a small win, but it’s better than a poke in the eye.”
10. Don’t complain
Definition: Be thankful and do not grumble about what you receive.
In a Sentence: “The gift may not be perfect, but don’t complain.”
11. Accept with grace
Definition: Receive something graciously, without complaints.
In a Sentence: “It’s not what I hoped for, but I’ll accept with grace.”
12. Be thankful for small mercies
Definition: Appreciate even the minor things one receives.
In a Sentence: “The weather may not be great, but be thankful for small mercies.”
13. Don’t be choosy
Definition: Do not be overly selective or critical, especially when receiving something for free.
In a Sentence: “It’s a free meal, don’t be choosy.”
14. Appreciate the gesture
Definition: Value the intention behind an act or a gift, regardless of its worth.
In a Sentence: “It’s not much, but I appreciate the gesture.”
15. It’s better than nothing
Definition: Even if it’s not ideal, it’s preferable to having nothing at all.
In a Sentence: “The bonus is small, but it’s better than nothing.”