a/the fly in the ointment

fly in the ointment

A flaw or imperfection that detracts from something positive. The only fly in the ointment in an otherwise perfect wedding day was the fact that the bride tripped when walking down the aisle.
See also: fly, ointment

fly in the ointment

Fig. a small, unpleasant matter that spoils something; a drawback. We enjoyed the play, but the fly in the ointment was not being able to find my hat afterward. It sounds like a good idea, but there must be a fly in the ointment somewhere.
See also: fly, ointment

fly in the ointment

A drawback or detrimental factor. For example, The new library is wonderful but there's a fly in the ointment: their catalog isn't complete yet . This term probably alludes to a biblical proverb (Ecclesiastes 10:1): "Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour." [c. 1600]
See also: fly, ointment

a fly in the ointment

If someone or something is a fly in the ointment, they prevent a situation from being as successful or happy as it would be without them. The only fly in the ointment is Bella's chronic lack of concentration. One potentially large fly in the ointment is how radio resources have been split up worldwide. Note: This expression probably comes from the Bible: `Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.' (Ecclesiastes 10:1)
See also: fly, ointment

a fly in the ointment

a minor irritation or other factor that spoils the success or enjoyment of something.
This expression alludes to Ecclesiastes 10:1: ‘Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour’.
1998 Times Before you conclude that I have become a raging Europhile, let me say that there is a fly in the ointment.
See also: fly, ointment

a/the fly in the ˈointment

(informal) a person or thing that stops a situation, an activity, a plan, etc. from being as good or successful as it could be: We lead a very happy life here. The only fly in the ointment is that there’s too much traffic on our road.
See also: fly, ointment

fly in the ointment

A detrimental circumstance or detail; a drawback.
See also: fly, ointment

fly in the ointment

A spoiler. Ecclesiastes 10:1 relates that dead flies impart a bad odor to perfume; early versions translate the word “perfume” as “ointment.” Another old phrase with the same meaning is to “throw a monkey wrench in the works.”
See also: fly, ointment