Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
sow a/the seed of doubt (in someone's mind)
To cause someone to have doubts, worries, or concerns (about something); to introduce someone to a doubtful or worrisome idea. The candidate was doing very well in the polls six months ago, but it seems that this smear campaign has been effective in sowing a seed of doubt in the minds of voters. Recent economic turbulence in the Eurozone has sown the seed of doubt about the strength of the economy's recovery. Jim's suspicious behavior sowed a seed of doubt in Jenny's mind about his fidelity.
make a silk purse of a sow's ear
To fashion something beautiful or valuable out of poor materials. Often used in the negative, such as "cannot make a silk purse of a sow's ear." What do you want me to do with this tacky dress? I can't make a silk purse of a sow's ear!
send a sow to Minerva
To try to teach someone who is smarter or more of an expert than oneself. The phrase presents the ridiculous image of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, being taught by a pig. Is he really explaining his songwriting process, as if it's that complex, to a famous musician? Talk about sending a sow to Minerva!
sow dragon's teeth
To do something that inadvertently leads to trouble. The phrase refers to Cadmus, a figure in Greek mythology who killed a dragon and, on instructions from Athena, sowed (planted) its teeth. The soldiers that grew from the teeth fought each other until only a few remained. A: "Why did you invite Joe, my sworn enemy, to this party?" B: "Listen, if I had known that I would be sowing dragon's teeth by inviting Joe, I never would have done it!" I guess I sowed dragon's teeth when I complained about my neighbors being too loud because now they won't talk to me.
as you sow, so shall you reap
Your actions dictate the consequences. The phrase is Biblical in origin. Of course you're exhausted in class—you stay up too late! As you sow, so shall you reap. Of course you're being investigated for tax fraud—you've spent years trying to avoid paying them. As you sow, so shall you reap.
sow the seeds of (something)
1. To do something that ensures a certain outcome in the future, especially an unfortunate or tragic one. They've been sowing the seeds of their own downfall with their anti-consumer practices over the last few years.
2. To cause someone to have certain thoughts or feelings, usually negative ones. The over-zealous policing of opposing opinions has sown the seeds of discontent among the population.
you reap what you sow
Your actions dictate the consequences. The phrase is Biblical in origin. Of course you're being investigated for tax fraud—you've spent years trying to avoid paying them. You reap what you sow. Of course you're exhausted in class—you stay up too late! You reap what you sow.
sow (one's) wild oats
To engage in rebelliousness or promiscuity, typically in one's youth before settling down. Bill and I had to break up because I was looking to get married, and he just wanted to sow his wild oats! You can't sow your wild oats forever! Soon, you'll want a wife and a house, and you'll regret the things you're doing now.
you can't make a silk purse (out) of a sow's ear
You cannot fashion something beautiful or valuable out of poor materials. What do you want me to do with this tacky dress? You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear!
As you sow, so shall you reap,and As a man sows, so shall he reap.
Prov. Things will happen to you good or bad, according to how you behave. (Biblical.) You should stop being so cruel to other people. As you sow, so shall you reap. Fred built an immense fortune by swindling others, but lost it all when someone swindled him. As a man sows, so shall he reap.
look like a saddle on a sow
Rur. to look ridiculous and out of place. Tom: How do you like my new diamond earring? Jane: It looks like a saddle on a sow. The fancy wheels on that beat-up old car look like a saddle on a sow.
sow one's wild oats
to do wild and foolish things in one's youth. (often assumed to have some sort of sexual meaning.) Jack was out sowing his wild oats last night, and he's in jail this morning. Mrs. smith told Mr. smith that he was too old to be sowing his wild oats.
sow the wind and reap the whirlwind
Prov. to start some kind of trouble that grows much larger than you planned. (Biblical.) our enemy has sown the wind by provoking this war, and they will reap the whirlwind when we vanquish them.
You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
Prov. You cannot make someone more refined than he or she is by nature. I've given up trying to get my cousin to appreciate classical music. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear
Be unable to turn something ugly or inferior into something attractive or of value, as in No matter how expensive his clothes, he still looks sloppy-you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear . This expression was already a proverb in the mid-1500s.
sow one's wild oats
Behave foolishly, immoderately or promiscuously when young, as in Brad has spent the last couple of years sowing his wild oats, but now he seems ready to settle down . This expression alludes to sowing inferior wild oats instead of good cultivated grain, the verb sowing-that is, "planting seed"-in particular suggesting sexual promiscuity. [Mid-1500s]
sow your wild oatsRUDE
If someone, especially a young man, sows their wild oats, they have many sexual relationships which are not serious and do not last long. This survey shows that men see nothing wrong in sowing their wild oats before settling down. To settle down with the first man you met means you haven't had a chance to sow your wild oats. Note: In this expression, the behaviour of young people is compared to someone sowing wild oats, which cannot be eaten, on good ground instead of edible oats.
reap what you sow
If someone reaps what they sow, they suffer or benefit as a result of their own actions. Note: To reap a crop such as corn means to cut and gather it. Parents who neglect their children will reap what they sow. It seems to me that if we neglect these people in our society, we should expect to reap what we sow. Note: People sometimes use the more formal expressions as you sow, so shall you reap or as we sow, so shall we reap. Our future lies in our own hands. Let us ensure that it is ethical and spiritual, for without doubt as we sow so shall we reap! Note: This is based on a quotation from the Bible: `Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.' (Galatians 6:7)
sow the seeds of somethingor
plant the seeds of something
1. If something or someone sows or plants the seeds of a future problem, they start the process which causes that problem to develop. An incident then occurred that was to sow the seeds of the invasion's eventual failure. It was this racist policy that planted the seeds of today's crisis in Africa.
2. You can also sow or plant the seeds of something good or something that you want to happen. With this overall strategy, they hope to sow the seeds of economic recovery. Ministers had spent five years planting the seeds of reform. I had planted the seeds of doubt in their minds.
you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear
If you say you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, you mean that it is impossible to make something very successful or of high quality out of something which is unsuccessful or of poor quality. He did his best to coach the team but you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Note: People often vary this expression. It takes more than a good swimming pool and an indoor tennis court or two to make a sow's ear of a resort into a silk purse. Afterwards, Kendall made no attempt to describe this sow's ear as a silk purse. Note: A sow is a female pig, and the ears of a pig are regarded as the least useful body parts when the animal is slaughtered.
sow (or plant) dragon's teethtake action that is intended to prevent trouble, but which actually brings it about.
In Greek legend, Cadmus killed a dragon and sowed its teeth, which sprang up as armed men; these men then killed one another, leaving just five survivors who became the ancestors of the Thebans.
sow your wild oatsgo through a period of wild or promiscuous behaviour while young.
Wild oats are weeds found in cornfields which resemble cultivated oats: spending time sowing them would be a foolish or useless activity. The expression has been current since the late 16th century; from the mid 16th to the early 17th century, wild oat was also used as a term for a dissolute young man.
you reap what you sowyou eventually have to face up to the consequences of your actions.
This proverbial saying exists in various forms. Its biblical source is Galatians 6:7: ‘Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap’.
make a silk purse out of a sow's earturn something inferior into something of top quality.
The observation that you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear has been proverbial since the late 16th century; there was an earlier version which featured a goat's fleece instead of a sow's ear .
have the right sow by the earhave the correct understanding of a situation.
sow the seed (or seeds) ofdo something which will eventually bring about a particular result.
1991 Philip Slater A Dream Deferred Each authoritarian government, groping toward modernization, would thereby sow the seeds of its own destruction.
you ˌreap what you ˈsow(saying) you have to deal with the bad effects or results of something that you originally started: He’s so mean! When I went to him for some sympathy and understanding, all he said was ‘you reap what you sow’!
These two phrases refer to farmers cutting and collecting crops from a field.
plant/sow the ˈseeds of somethingstart a process which will develop into something large, important, etc: What first planted the seeds of doubt in your mind? ♢ The seeds of conflict were sown when oil was discovered on the border between the two countries.
make a silk ˌpurse out of a sow’s ˈearsucceed in making something good out of material that does not seem very good at all: If you’re serious about taking up painting, invest in good quality brushes and canvas. After all, it’s no good trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
sow your wild ˈoats(informal) (usually used of young men) enjoy yourself before you get married and settle down: The problem is that he never sowed his wild oats before he got married, and he wants to sow them now. Wild oats are weeds that grow in fields and look like real oats. Sowing them would be a silly or useless activity.
sow (one's)oats/wild oats
To indulge in sexually promiscuous or dissolute behavior, especially as a young adult.
the sow that eats its farrow
Ireland. The phrase comes from James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: “Do you know what Ireland is? asked Stephen with cold violence. Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow.” A “farrow” is a litter of newborn piglets, and the reference is Joyce's belief that Ireland had a history of destroying its writers, admirable political figures, and indeed everything that should be saved and nurtured.