Give Your Eye Teeth (for something)

Also: give your eye teeth to do something

Meaning of Idiom ‘Give Your (one one’s) Eye Teeth’

If you would give your eye teeth for something you would go to great trouble in order to obtain it; to want something very much. 1Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms]. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010. ,2Heacock, Paul. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.,3Pare, May. Body Idioms and More: For Learners of English. United States?: Mayuree Pare, 2005.

Usage

This hyperbolic idiom, similar to give your right arm, is most often used in the first person as in “I’d give my eye teeth for a job like that.” It is also always conditional, using the word would. We never say “I will give up my eye teeth.”

Examples Of Use

“I’d give my eye teeth to live in a house like Jeff’s.”

“I can’t believe you’re complaining about your weight. Most people would give their eye teeth to have a body like yours.”

“It is so boring in this town. I’d give my eye teeth for a little excitement.”

Origin

Used since at least the early 1900s.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, this idiom replaced ‘give one’s eyes,’ dating from the 1800s.

This idiom is based on the two slightly pointed canine (or cuspid) teeth in the upper jaw, so-named because they slightly resemble a dog’s teeth. These teeth are also sometimes called eye teeth. These teeth are the largest in the human mouth, just as in other primates, although human canines are quite small in comparison, enabling us to chew our food from side to side. However, the canines have the most robust roots and thus are also the strongest teeth in the mouth. Their roots can be so large and long that they reach almost to the bottom of the eye socket. There is also a nerve connection from these teeth to the eyes, meaning that pain felt in these teeth may be felt in the eyes or eye area. This is why they are called eye teeth. There are also two canine teeth in the lower jaw, but these are not referred to as eye teeth.

The eye teeth are quite essential teeth, needed for tearing off bits of flesh or biting off pieces of hard fruit. Thus, to give up one’s eye teeth would be to give up something very important. It would also be quite physically painful, even more so than having other teeth pulled.

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Sources   [ + ]

1. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms]. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.
2. Heacock, Paul. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.
3. Pare, May. Body Idioms and More: For Learners of English. United States?: Mayuree Pare, 2005.