Feet of Clay, have

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An idiom of ancient origin.

Meaning

To have feet of clay is to have some basic weakness or fault. This idiom is often applied to someone who is admired or is of high repute but who is discovered to be weak of character or flawed in some way.

Usage

"I thought getting older wouldn't matter and I could just jump back into the fray, but I've discovered I have feet of clay."

"The media seems to worship celebrities at the same time as looking for their feet of clay."

Composite statue from King Nebuchadnezzar with feet of clay

c. 1400's, France. King Nebuchadnezzar's 'composite' statue with
its feet of clay (actually part iron and part clay).

Composite statue from King Nebuchadnezzar with feet of clay

c. 1400's, France. King Nebuchadnezzar's 'composite' statue with
its feet of clay (actually part iron and part clay).

Origin

The origin of this idiom would be tough figure out without a concrete source, which we find in the Bible. In the book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar dreamed that he saw a great statue made of gold, silver, and brass, but with feet made partly of clay and partly of iron. Daniel interpreted this vision to mean that the clay feet symbolized the Babylonian Empire's vulnerability and imminent demise:

Daniel 2:32 - 33 (King James version)

Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass. This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.

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