at the feet of: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘at the feet of’ mean?

The idiom "at the feet of" means to be in a subservient or admiring position to someone, often used to describe someone who reveres or looks up to another person.

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The idiom "at the feet of" is a commonly used phrase in the English language. It is often used to convey the idea of someone being in a subservient or worshipful position towards another person. The origins of this idiom can be traced back to ancient times and have evolved over centuries, becoming deeply rooted in our cultural and linguistic history.

One of the earliest recorded instances of this idiom can be found in biblical texts, specifically in the New Testament. In Luke 10:39, the story of Mary and Martha, Mary is described as sitting "at the feet of Jesus" while listening to his teachings.

Throughout history, the idiom "at the feet of" has been used in various forms to express a similar meaning. In ancient times, disciples or students would sit at the feet of their teachers or masters to receive instruction, symbolizing a position of respect and submission to their wisdom and authority.

Over time, the idiom expanded beyond its literal meaning and began to encompass a more figurative sense. It came to represent a state of complete devotion, adoration, or dependence on someone or something.

The idiom "at the feet of" also carries a connotation of inferiority or subordination, implying that the person or thing being referred to has a higher status or power. This can be seen in phrases like "at the feet of the master" or "at the feet of the gods," where the master or gods hold a superior position and inspire reverence and obedience.

We uncover the etymology behind idioms, sitting at their feet.

In contemporary usage, the idiom "at the feet of" is often used metaphorically to describe someone's admiration, respect, or adulation towards another person.

One related idiom is "at one's feet," which means to be completely under or subject to someone's control or influence. It conveys a sense of complete submission or surrender. This can be seen in expressions like "the entire city was at the feet of the conquering king."

Another related idiom is "lay something at the feet of," which means to attribute the responsibility or blame for something to someone. It suggests placing the burden or consequence of an action on someone's shoulders. For example, "we lay the failure of the project at the feet of the manager."

"feet of clay" is a related idiom that refers to a flaw or vulnerability in a person or thing that is otherwise perceived as strong or powerful. It implies that even the most seemingly invincible individuals or things have weaknesses or faults. For instance, "the political leader's feet of clay were exposed when his corruption was revealed."

"Down at heel" is an idiom related to the state of being impoverished or disheveled. It suggests a lack of financial stability or a decline in social status. For example, "after losing his job, he fell on hard times and was down at heel."

"Hold someone's feet to the fire" is another idiomatic expression related to the idea of holding someone accountable for their actions. It means to put pressure on someone or enforce consequences for their behavior. This can be seen in phrases like "we need to hold the company's feet to the fire and demand better environmental practices."

Overall, the idiom "at the feet of" encompasses a rich history and symbolism. It has evolved over time to convey notions of humility, reverence, adoration, and dependence. Whether used in a literal or figurative sense, this idiom highlights the complex dynamics of power, authority, and admiration within human relationships.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom "at the feet of" can be used in a sentence:

  1. She laid her accomplishments at the feet of her mentor, acknowledging their guidance and support.
  2. The crowd gathered at the feet of the statue, admiring its majestic beauty.
  3. The students sat at the feet of the renowned professor, eagerly listening to their insightful lecture.

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