kid gloves


kid gloves (noun)
/ˈkɪd ɡʌvz/

Idiomatic Variants

  • handle with kid gloves
  • kid glove treatment
  • treat someone with kid gloves


  • to handle or treat someone in a very delicate or cautious manner.
  • to treat someone or something delicately or cautiously.
  • the act of treating someone or something with extreme care or gentleness.
  • handling someone or something with great care or gentleness, often implying a cautious or delicate approach.
  • literally, fine gloves made from the skin of a young goat (kid), known for their softness and delicacy.

Example Sentences

  1. He handled the sensitive issue with kid gloves to avoid causing offense.
  2. The diplomat was known for handling negotiations with kid gloves, ensuring no one felt threatened.
  3. She received the kid glove treatment during her first week at the new job, with everyone being exceptionally polite and helpful.
  4. The boss tends to treat new employees with kid gloves until they’re fully trained.
  5. The manager handled the customer complaint with kid gloves to ensure their satisfaction.
  6. She always wears kid gloves when handling the antique china. (Literal usage)

Origin and History

The phrase “handle or treat someone with kid gloves” has endured through centuries, evolving from its literal origins in luxury apparel to its figurative meaning in everyday language. Its origins are rooted in a blend of material culture, linguistic adaptation, and social norms, reflecting broader changes in societal values over time. And it has sparked various theories and beliefs, reflecting the rich tapestry of linguistic evolution and cultural anecdotes.

The term “kid gloves” itself refers to gloves made from the skin of a young goat, known for their softness and delicacy. Historically, these gloves were considered luxurious in Europe from the 18th century onward. The aristocracy and upper classes in Europe prized these gloves for their fine texture and associated them with refined manners and gentle handling.

Literal Origin: Material Sensitivity

One theory posits that the idiom originates from the literal qualities of kid gloves. Because these gloves were so delicate and easily damaged, they required careful handling to maintain their pristine condition. This literal association evolved into a figurative expression for handling people or situations with similar care and sensitivity.

French Influence: “Kid” as “Fawn”

Another theory suggests a French origin, where “kid” originally referred not to a young goat but to the skin of a young deer (fawn). In French, “câlin” means gentle or tender, and “enfant” means child, which could have influenced the idea of treating gently or with care, later translating into English as “kid gloves.”

19th Century Usage and Social Etiquette

During the 19th century, when the phrase gained popularity, social norms and etiquette were highly valued. The use of kid gloves in formal settings reinforced the idea of delicate handling, both in the literal and figurative senses. This era saw a proliferation of idioms and expressions related to refinement and polite conduct.

Literary and Cultural References

References in literature and cultural artifacts also contribute to the understanding of the idiom’s evolution. Writers and playwrights often used idiomatic expressions reflecting societal norms and values, embedding them in their works and thus perpetuating their usage across generations.

American vs. British Usage

While the idiom is commonly used in both American and British English, its frequency and specific nuances of usage may vary slightly between these linguistic contexts. American usage tends to be more generalized, whereas British usage sometimes includes nuances related to class distinctions and social etiquette.

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