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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


1. Pure white in color. The locals were absolutely fascinated with our lily-white skin.
2. Strait-laced; totally honest. You're being naïve if you think the top business people are lily white.
3. Consisting solely or primarily of white people. He'd always lived in lily-white towns, so felt a bit out of place when he moved to a city with a large black community.


Cowardly or fearful. I'm not surprised that Tom didn't come to the rally—he's too lily-livered to defend his beliefs in public.

gild the lily

To further adorn something that is already beautiful. You look radiant, as always—wearing such an extravagant gown is just gilding the lily.
See also: gild, lily

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

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

gild the lily

If someone gilds the lily, they try to improve something which is already very good, and so what they are doing is unnecessary. There can be a temptation to gild the lily in such documents, making exaggerated claims about what the school can offer to students. Top the cake with ice cream or whipped cream, if you're keen on gilding the lily. Note: This expression may be based on lines in Shakespeare's `King John' (1595): `To gild refined gold, to paint the lily... Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.' (Act 4, Scene 2)
See also: gild, lily

gild the lily

try to improve what is already beautiful or excellent.
This phrase adapts lines from Shakespeare's King John: ‘To gild refined gold, to paint the lily…Is wasteful and ridiculous excess’.
See also: gild, lily

gild the ˈlily

try to improve something which is already perfect, and so spoil it: The dress is perfect. Don’t add anything to it at all. It would just be gilding the lily.This comes from Shakespeare’s play King John. Gild means ‘to cover something with a thin layer of gold’. A lily is a very beautiful flower.
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
References in periodicals archive ?
What makes them particularly dangerous is that all parts of the plant are toxic and even small ingestions, such as two or three leaves or petals, or water from a vase containing lilies, can be potentially fatal.
As a starting point, they have lilies from all over the world to help them come up with new colours, patterns, habits and perfumes.
Some of these breeding programmes have strange aims - there are attempts to produce double lilies now, but to me the beauty is in the shape of its flowers.
Bulbils and stem bulblets are easy ways to propagate lilies, but only a few cultivated lilies form them.
This will be the first time five of Monet's water lilies have been brought together in the UK for more than a decade.
I'm frequently asked how I decide to shape my flowerbeds and position my perennials, especially the lilies.
The new findings, however, may help ecologists learn how sea lilies reproduce and disperse.
September was once regarded as the month for planting lilies, simply because it gives them a chance to establish a root system before the winter.
For example lilies from Division I are hybrids of asiatic species and although they lack the perfume associated with other lilies, this is compensated by their prolific and luscious growth.
You can tell it from the other orange lilies because its blossoms are unspotted and point up, like cups, rather than down, like bells.
Gradually the other layers of the image make themselves known: the skull on which the Venus is superimposed, the woman's body in which the skull rides as womb, the lilies and the tree that sprout from the Venus's head.
Winner of Canada's Genie award for best film of 1996 as well as of the Grand Jury prize at Outfest '97 in Los Angeles and the audience award at the 1997 San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Lilies is shaping up as Greyson's first high-profile success in 15 years of filmmaking.
Retailers that order more than $1,500 worth of pond lilies will get an additional 10 percent deducted from their orders.
Last week Samantha Edwards from Surrey wanted advice on lilies and whether to plant bulbs in pots or soil.
A lot of people have trouble growing lilies, so they may be interested in seeing what other people can grow," Ms.