A young man’s fancy


What's the meaning of the phrase 'A young man's fancy'?

The expression ‘A young man’s fancy’ alludes to light thoughts of romantic love.

What's the origin of the phrase 'A young man's fancy'?

The phrase ‘a young man’s fancy’ was coined by Alfred Lord Tennyson, in his poem Locksly Hall, 1842:

In the spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin’s breast
In the spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest
In the spring a livelier iris changes on the burnished dove
In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

The poem concludes with what is one of the best known lines in English poetry. However, it wasn’t the whimsical accolade to young love as might be imagined. The protagonist muses on unrequitted love in a somewhat bitter mood. Tennyson described the poem as showing “young life, its good side, its deficiencies, and its yearnings”.

By the word ‘fancy’ Tennyson meant ‘imagination; a mental image’. To take a fancy to is to be attracted to and imagine (fancy) oneself together with the object of one’s affection. This expression was well known from the 16th century onward. It is first found in the 1541 Acts of Parliament of Henry VIII:

In case it fortune… the king… should take a fancie to anie woman.

Trend of a young man ‘s fancy in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.