Make a mountain out of a molehill is an idiom expression that has existed in English and other languages in various forms since the late 16th century.
To ‘make a mountain out of a molehill’ is to make some trivial problem seem very important. In other words, it is to make a big deal out of a minor difficulty.
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This idiom compositional in that it is sometimes humorously reversed to mean the opposite. Make a molehill out of a mountain, means to make something important seem trivial.
“My son fell and skinned his knee today at recess and the school nurse called and insisted I come by and pick him up. When I got there, she suggested I take him to the doctor. Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill. It was just a scratch!”
Moles are small burrowing mammals. They dig tunnels through the soil, leaving small heaps of soil on the ground which are called molehills. Thus, the origin of this idiom is fairly clear, as making something very small seem very big. This expression used metaphorically has existed in English and other languages since the late 1500’s. Even though many of us rarely see a molehill, alliteration has probably helped this idiom survive.
There are similar idioms in other languages, such as the Finnish ‘turn a fly into a bull’ and the German and Dutch ‘make an elephant out of a fly.’
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