Naked as a Jaybird

Meaning of Idiom ‘Naked as a Jaybird’

To be naked as a jaybird means naked; completely unclothed. 1Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.,2Spears, Richard A. McGraw-Hill’s American Idioms Dictionary. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.,3Morton, Mark Steven. The Lover’s Tongue: a Merry Romp through the Language of Love and Sex. Insomniac Press, 2003.

Usage

Also expressed as naked as a jaybird.

“My mother in law just walked in on me while I was getting out of the shower. I was naked as a jaybird!”

“I once lost a bet and had to run down the street as naked as jaybird.”

Origin

First recorded in English in 1843.

This idiom replaced a mid-19th-century version, naked as a robin. In both cases, the allusion is unclear as both birds are covered in feathers. Also curious is the use of the term jaybird when the bird being referred to is usually called only jay. “Naked as a jay” is never used. 4Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

There are, however, many ways English modifies the word naked, such as buck nakedstark naked, and even the very old Middle English expressions naked as a worm and naked as a needle. While some of these expressions may invoke an emotional or moral reaction to a state of nudity, others might serve to illustrate the naturalness of the nude state, with the choice of expression depending on the circumstances, and often, the subject. When worms, needles, or birds are used, there seems to be less sexual or moral connotation. Whether or not a bird is a good choice for the simile, it does represent something seen in nature. 5Morton, Mark Steven. The Lover’s Tongue: a Merry Romp through the Language of Love and Sex. Insomniac Press, 2003.

The precise origin of the idiom, though, remains a mystery.

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Sources   [ + ]

1, 4. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
2. Spears, Richard A. McGraw-Hill’s American Idioms Dictionary. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.
3, 5. Morton, Mark Steven. The Lover’s Tongue: a Merry Romp through the Language of Love and Sex. Insomniac Press, 2003.