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What Does "Apple of Your Eye" Mean?

Gerelyn Terzo
Updated May 23, 2024
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There are many idioms that make up the English language that are used to express a sentiment or point of view in a unique way. The term "apple of your eye" is one such phrase, and it is used to identify something or someone who is highly valuable to the speaker or writer. In addition to being used as a metaphor, this idiom also has a literal meaning. It can refer to the opening in the middle of an individual's eye, or the pupil.

This widely used idiom has its roots in Old English, an early form of the English language used in parts of England for hundreds of years leading up to the 12th century. Old English was used primarily by the Anglo-Saxon population. This language had many influences but is considered a West Germanic dialect with words from several different languages.

"Apple of your eye" refers to someone who is held dear. The connotation is toward someone precious because, in its earliest form, the term was very literal. It referred to pupil, and as eyesight was deemed precious, the phrase had the merits of an idiom. The term made its way into some of the earliest literary writings from the likes of King Alfred the Great in the late ninth century, although it is unclear who the originator of the phrase is. William Shakespeare also incorporated the use of this phrase into his works in the 16th century.

The term "apple of your eye" is also a biblical scripture that can be found in the Old Testament. In the book of Psalm in chapter 17, verse eight, in the New International Version (NIV), the Bible says, "Keep me as the apple of your eye. Hide me in the shadow of your wings." This scripture is a plea to the Lord to remember His child. The scripture suggests that the author of the scripture, David, is dear and precious to God.

Other biblical uses of the term "apple of your eye" can be found in the book of Deuteronomy in chapter 32, verse 10, which reads, "He found him in a desert land and in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye." This verse is authored by Moses and refers to God's love for His people. Also, in the book of Zechariah in chapter two, verse eight, the author says, "For he who touches you touches the apple of His eye."

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Gerelyn Terzo
By Gerelyn Terzo
Gerelyn Terzo, a journalist with over 20 years of experience, brings her expertise to her writing. With a background in Mass Communication/Media Studies, she crafts compelling content for multiple publications, showcasing her deep understanding of various industries and her ability to effectively communicate complex topics to target audiences.
Discussion Comments
By ddljohn — On Dec 14, 2014

Is his metaphor really as old as the Bible?! I thought it was far more recent than that. And according to this article, it's a metaphor that is referred to more than once in the Bible, which sort of means that it was very well known by the people it was directed to. So people who lived during Biblical times were very familiar with "apple of your eye" and used it all the time.

The fact that it's in the Bible is probably one of the reasons why the metaphor is still in use today. It might have fallen out of favor if it had not been in the Bible. And of course, its use in significant literature like that of Shakespeare must have helped too.

I love learning about the origins of various phrases. It's fun to know this trivia and remember it when someone around me uses it.

By turquoise — On Dec 14, 2014

@stoneMason-- I learned recently too, from my teacher. It makes sense though doesn't it? The pupil does sort of look the "the apple of the eye."

My apple of my eye is my cat whom I love and care for a lot. I basically do anything she wants, I buy her lots of treats and take her outside every day. She's a very happy cat and she knows my love for her. That's why she's spoiled and will act sad or roll around on the floor if she doesn't get what she wants.

By stoneMason — On Dec 13, 2014

I had no idea that "apple of your eye" had a literal meaning and that it refers to the pupil. I've always known this phrase by its metaphorical meaning. It's interesting how the metaphor has become more commonly used and better known then the literal meaning of the phrase. I'm glad I learned it though and the origins. It's very interesting.

Gerelyn Terzo
Gerelyn Terzo
Gerelyn Terzo, a journalist with over 20 years of experience, brings her expertise to her writing. With a background in...
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