don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

don’t look a gift horse in the mouth
also never look a gift horse in the mouth


  • don’t be ungrateful when you receive a gift
  • do not be critical of a gift you receive
  • do not refuse something good that is offered
  • do not be unappreciative of or question a gift you have received.

Example Sentences

  1. I know you don’t like the dress very much, but it was a gift; you should not look a gift horse in the mouth.
  2. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, be grateful for what you have received.
  3. He gave his old car as a gift; I know its not a great one, but I wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
  4. It’s not what you were hoping for, but it’s the best he could afford; I would advise you not to look a gift horse in the mouth.
  5. If I were you, I wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Just be grateful that he was kind enough to give you his old watch when you needed one.


This phrase alludes to the fact that the age, hence the usefulness, of a horse can be determined by looking at its teeth. The expression says that if a horse is given as a gift, you should not look at its teeth to determine its quality. It is an ancient expression and the exact origin is unknown. However, the first print occurrence in English is found in 1546 in John Heywood’s “A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue” (middle English). The phrase can be traced further back to the Latin text of St Jerome, The Letter to the Ephesians, in AD 400.


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D 2 Comments


AuthorChristine writes on 17th December 2018

I’m 62 years old & what they taught me in grade school is different than this. The teacher apparently misinformed us that it referred to Joan of Arc, when she sent a gift horse; but, it was a war tactic to attack the enemy. In other words, don’t trust a gift at face value, there may be illegal, unethical, self-serving motives behind the gift.

AuthorFrances Mattingly writes on 1st September 2018

This is wonderful. In this age of ungratefulness, we need this reminder. We don’t always receive what we want, but do get what we need, due to the providence we enjoy. Not every one can give $100.00 gifts.

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