The apple of my eye


What's the meaning of the phrase 'The apple of my eye'?

The apple of one’s eye originally referred to the central aperture of the eye. Figuratively it is something, or more usually someone, cherished above others.

What's the origin of the phrase 'The apple of my eye'?

‘The apple of my eye’ is an exceedingly old expression which first appears, in Old English, in a work attributed to King Aelfred (the Great) of Wessex, AD 885, titled Gregory’s Pastoral Care.

Much later, Shakespeare used the phrase in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1600:

Flower of this purple dye,
Hit with Cupid’s archery,
Sink in apple of his eye

It also appears several times in the Bible; for example, in Deuteronomy 32:10 (King James Version, 1611)

He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.

and in Zechariah 2:8:

For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.

The phrase was known from those early sources but became more widely used in the general population when Sir Walter Scott included it in the popular novel Old Mortality, 1816:

“Poor Richard was to me as an eldest son, the apple of my eye.”

See also – phrases coined by Sir Walter Scott.

Trend of the apple of my eye 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.