Productivity writer Merlin Mann often uses the phrase "ears to hear" on his podcast. An example from his writing:

"a discursive mishmash of advice I wish I'd had the ears to hear in the year or five after graduating from college"

Clearly, this means "advice I wish I'd been ready enough, or open minded enough to listen to".

Is this a common idiom? I've not come across it elsewhere.

Does it have any particular origins? I wonder whether it's related to this Bible verse:

"He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."

  • 2
    Probably does. I've not heard it used in that way before.
    – WS2
    Nov 27, 2013 at 11:46

1 Answer 1


The ear in this particular verse in Greek is:




Apparently a primary word; the ear (physically or mentally): - ear.

If Merlin Mann patterned the phrase ears to hear from the Bible, it just means literal ear. I am not familiar with the usage of this as a common idiom, if it is indeed an accepted idiom.

But if I were to understand that phrase, I would have the same understanding as you. I cannot think of any meaning, but it may still depend on the context or on the adjacent sentences. I cannot see any mystery or hidden meanings behind the phrase you quoted.

I provided the Greek meaning of the word because the Bible is originally written in Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic, depending on the book.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.