forty winks


forty winks

Meaning | Synonyms

  • sleep for a while, mostly during the day
  • a small sleep
  • a short slumber
  • a snooze
  • a nap
  • catnap
  • put your head down

Example Sentences

  1. The bank manager caught the security guard while taking forty winks on duty.
  2. I must have to get my forty winks today since I didn’t sleep well since couple of days.
  3. Being on the duty of a security person – catching forty winks is strictly prohibited.
  4. John generally has forty winks going to work early in morning on the bus.
  5. Robert always like to catch forty winks after the lunch.
  6. When the pilot was catching forty winks – the plane was about to be crashed.
  7. I wonder how do the people can get forty winks when they are on the plane.
  8. Sassi was highly regretted for those forty winks when Baloch people kidnapped her lover Punnu.
  9. Mirza had not be killed by the brothers of his girlfriend if he didn’t catch forty winks at that time.


The first use of this expression dates back to 1821, when Dr. William Kitchiner, an optician and telescope inventor used it in his self help guide, The art of invigorating and prolonging life – “A forty winks nap in a horizontal posture, is the best preparative for any extraordinary exertion of either.”

To lay emphasis on forty winks being just the right amount of sleep for a nap, F. Scott Fitzgerald in a short article called “Gretchen’s Forty Winks” published on March 15, 1924, the main protagonist, Roger Halsey said to his wife, Gretchen, “just take forty winks, and when you wake up everything would be fine.”

Another use was recorded in 1941, when Frank De Silva, a member of the 6th Division, among the 8000 troops rescued from Greece by HMAS Perth, falls asleep, and when nudged awake says, “I just needed that forty winks, then I can return to duty.”

To show the link between this expression and its biblical relationship, Robert Louis Stevenson and Ernest Henley in their play “King’s evidence”, had Smith say to Moore, “give him forty winks, and he’ll turn up as fresh as clean sawdust and as respectable as new bible.”

Share your thoughts8 Thoughts

Somewhere in the ether the real reason exists.

- Fred Harvey July 23, 2023

Most British people nowadays refer to a nap as 'having 40 wanks.'

- Michaei Jones June 15, 2023

Hi again! I just wanted to tell you I've read the origin section here for forty winks and it turns out I'm wrong about the wombles! Very interesting that the expression is so old.!

- Fiona Mackenzie February 9, 2023

Exactly - I believe the origin of the phrase was a children's programme on television in the 1970's where a character called Orinoco used to say "I think I'll have 40 winks," and lie down for a nap.

- Fiona Mackenzie February 9, 2023

If a wink, is like the wink of an eye, then 40 winks would be worthless for rest.

- Joe Sands February 6, 2023

It doesn't make sense. If you are winking you aren't asleep.

- Elaine December 13, 2022

I also had the same question as Denzel Finley. I was having a discussion about this with my wife and ended up searching for an origin of the idiom on Google, which led me to this website. I wonder if there are people who might have the same enquiry as me out there. If you do please leave a comment.

- David Lee July 30, 2022

Why 40 ? Why not 30 or 50 ?

- Denzel Finley March 5, 2022

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