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Cut Off your Nose to Spite your Face

statue holding scissors around nose

Cut Off your Nose to Spite your Face Definition

Cutting off your nose to spite your face.

  • Hurting yourself in an attempt to hurt someone else.
  • Doing something self destructive to yourself or your reputation just to harm someone else

Meaning

The phrase gives an example of someone who may not be happy with their looks. But cutting off their nose or otherwise disfiguring themselves would only make things worse.

Cut Off your Nose to Spite your Face Examples

  • “The teacher gave me an F, what do you think about me putting gum on his seat?” “I think that’s sort of like cutting off your nose to spite your face.”
  • I want to extend my loan to lower these ridiculous payments. But as far as the interest goes it feels like cutting off my nose to spite my face.

Quotes

When it comes to something like Brexit, I am part of the liberal-media London bubble, and so, to me, voting to leave was madness. My perspective was that it was cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Charlie Brooker

You’re always cutting your nose off to spite your face. I’ve never met a woman as stubborn as you. Even when it’s not in your interests you’ll do something to make a point.

Dorothy Koomson, The Woman He Loved Before

Cut Off your Nose to Spite your Face Origin

Literary Origin

He cut off his nose to be revenged of his face; said of one who, to be revenged on his neighbour, has materially injured himself.

A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, Francis Grose, 1788

Francis Grose was an English antiquary, draughtsman and lexicographer. While he favored publishing works of antique artifacts and buildings. After incurring debt during his militia service he branched out into publishing dictionaries like this A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, to supplement his income.

Spiritual Origin

male ulciscitur dedecus sibi illatum qui amputat nasum suum / he who cuts off his nose takes poor revenge for a shame inflicted on him

Conquestio de dilatione vie Ierosolimitane, Pierre de Blois, 1191

The earliest recording of a very similar phrase comes from a Latin text written by Pierre de Bloise a French cleric, poet and diplomat in 1191.