Fly in the Ointment, a

Meaning Of Idiom ‘A Fly in the Ointment

fly in the ointment is a small event, circumstance, or factor that spoils an entire endeavor, circumstance, reputation, etc.

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Examples Of Use

“The detective was sure that the man had been murdered in his bedroom. The only fly in the ointment was that both the door and window had been locked from the inside.”

“Dennis had a full business plan and he was sure his idea would work. The one fly in the ointment was money: He didn’t have any.”

“The new computers are much better than our old ones but the fly in the ointment is that they are prone to overheating.”

Fly in the ointment idiom meaning


The idiom is most likely of Biblical origin, relating to Ecclesiastes 10:1, specifically the King James Version and certain other English translations:

“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.”

This proverb means that a wise and respected person can have his reputation ruined by a little folly, just as one dead fly can ruin an ointment.

Some translations render ointment as perfume or as oil.

As an idiom, the proverb came into use during the late 1800’s.

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