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I have googled for the definition of the expression envy of his brethren, but didn't get more than references to the Bible. What does this expression mean?

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closed as general reference by slim, FumbleFingers, Lynn, Jasper Loy, Mitch Feb 29 '12 at 21:22

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
Please can you add some context for us? What sentences have you seen this expression in? –  Matt Эллен Feb 29 '12 at 14:04
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Also, what is it in particular that you don't understand? –  Matt Эллен Feb 29 '12 at 14:07
    
Voting to close, as all the words are easily looked up, and when you put them together the meaning is unambiguous. –  slim Feb 29 '12 at 14:11
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You likely won't find it in general use because hardly anybody says "brethren" anymore. Just means (causing jealousy) in his (brothers, close buddies, comrades, etc.). –  Lynn Feb 29 '12 at 15:27

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The expression means that some man's brethren envies something.

Toby's shoes were the envy of his brethren.

This means that the shoes Toby has were causing envy in his brethren.

I will assume you know what of and his mean.

Envy is an emotion similar to jealousy. So really, Toby's brethren didn't envy his shoes, but Toby for having the shoes. In other words they wanted Toby's shoes.

Brethren indicates either actual brothers, a collection of male affiliates that one is emotionally close to, or a group of people one has been pigeon-holed as being very alike to.

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The envy of somebody is equivalent to the subject of envy from somebody. (The OED gives one meaning of the word as "The object of envy").

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