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paint the lily

To add embellishment to something that is already beautiful or outstanding. The phrase comes from Shakespeare's King John: "To gild refined gold, to paint the lily ... is wasteful and ridiculous excess." My wife is so gorgeous that putting her in a fancy gown would just be painting the lily. Why add a filter to your photo of the rainbow? No need to paint the lily.
See also: lily, paint

gild the lily

Fig. to add ornament or decoration to something that is pleasing in its original state; to attempt to improve something that is already fine the way it is. (Often refers to flattery or exaggeration.) Your house has lovely brickwork. Don't paint it. That would be gilding the lily. Oh, Sally. You're beautiful the way you are. You don't need makeup. You would be gilding the lily.
See also: gild, lily

gild the lily

to spoil something by trying to improve or decorate it when it is already perfect
Usage notes: To gild something is to cover it with a thin layer of gold. A lily is a beautiful white flower. To gild a lily would not be necessary.
Should I add a scarf to this jacket or would it be gilding the lily?
See also: gild, lily


not brave I've never seen such a lily-livered bunch of wimps in my life!


1. (British, American & Australian) completely white in colour He marvelled at her lily-white hands.
2. (American & Australian) completely honest (often negative) He's not exactly lily-white himself, so he has some nerve calling her a cheat!
3. (American & Australian) having only white people near, often because of a wish to keep black people away The black family found it difficult to feel comfortable in this lily-white, prosperous suburb.

gild the lily

Add unnecessary adornment or supposed improvement. For example, Offering three different desserts after that elaborate meal would be gilding the lily. This expression is a condensation of Shakespeare's metaphor in King John (4:2): "To gild refined gold, to paint the lily ... is wasteful and ridiculous excess." [c. 1800]
See also: gild, lily

knock the dew off the lily

and shake the dew off the lily
phr. [for a male] to urinate, especially first thing in the morning. (The dew is urine.) He’s up and into the bathroom, knocking the dew off the lily long before I even get my eyes open. I gotta go shake the dew off the lily before I explode.
See also: dew, knock, lily, off

shake the dew off the lily

See also: dew, lily, off, shake


mod. cowardly. That lily-livered guy is up hiding under his bed till this blows over.

gild the lily

1. To adorn unnecessarily something already beautiful.
2. To make superfluous additions to what is already complete.
See also: gild, lily

gild the lily

Engage in an unnecessary and usually wasteful activity. Like carrying coals to Newcastle, to gild a lily would be a waste of time as the flower already possesses more than sufficient beauty. The phrase comes from a misquotation of lines from Shakespeare's King John: Therefore, to be possess'd with double pomp, To guard a title that was rich before, To gild refined gold, to paint the lily . . . Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.
See also: gild, lily