While the French refer to the temporary hoarseness caused by phlegm in the back of the throat as having a cat in the throat, the English version of the expression is to have a frog in the throat. I looked for the origin of the saying on the net, but to no avail as there seems to be a controversy around the real origin of the expression.

Could someone help shed some light?

1 Answer 1


According to The Phrase Finder, the origin is simpler and more intuitive than the legends about it might suggest:

'A frog in the throat':

  • is an American phrase that entered the language towards the end of the 19th century. The expression doesn't have a fanciful derivation (see more on that below) but comes directly from the fact that a hoarse person sounds croaky - like a frog.

  • The earliest reference I can find to the expression is from How to be Man, which was an improving 'book for boys', written by the American clergyman Harvey Newcomb in 1847. Newcomb encouraged the youngsters to resist the temptation of 'improper diversions' [the nature of which I will leave to your imagination]:

  • The expression must have been in popular use in the USA by 1894, when it was used in an advertisement as the name of a proprietary medicine for sore throats, in The Stevens Point Journal, November 1894:

  • "The Taylor Bros. say that 'Frog in the Throat' will cure hoarseness. 10 cents and [sic] box."

  • Interestingly, a reference to the phrase was printed just four weeks later in the English newspaper The Hastings and St Leonards Observer, in an article about 'Yankee advertising'. The Observer journalist describes how a local chemist had adopted an American advertising window display in order to sell the imported 'Frog in Your Throat' lozenges. The display consisted of artificial frogs dressed up as English peasants and arranged in a variety of tableaux titled 'Merrie England in Ye Olden Time'. In order to lend some zest to the sales campaign, the advertising agents for the importers invented a back story which claimed that 'a frog in the throat' was 'an old English expression, once in common use, but now forgotten here'. That story is as fake as the stuffed frogs - the expression is certainly American and only became widely used in England when Taylor Bros. began selling their lozenges.

  • It is easy to find websites that claim 'a frog in your throat' derives from the belief that 'in medieval times physicians thought that the secretions of a frog could help heal a sore throat'. That's true, they did have that belief, but any link between that and the phrase 'frog in the throat' is one of the pieces of folk etymology that appear to float around the Internet and enjoy apparent immortality, despite having no basis in truth and no supporting evidence. Holding a live frog in a child's mouth until the frog died was thought, in the 17th century, to be a cure for thrush (a viral infection of the mouth). No one at the time used the phrase 'a frog in the/your/ones throat', which isn't known until the late 19th century.

  • As a general rule, any of the origin of a phrase that begins with 'In medieval times...' should be treated with suspicion.

From Etymonline:

  • To have a frog in the throat "be hoarse" is from 1892, from the "croaking" sound.

A frog in the throat: ( from www.tsminteractive.com)

  • Actually, this phrase doesn’t really have a colorful beginning as to how it entered the English language. It probably got its start in the US, rather than England, but it means just what you think it means. When an individual with a hoarse throat tries to speak, he or she can often sound like a croaking frog. That seems simple enough.
  • 2
    A book I strongly recommend is The Invention of Tradition by Eric Hobsbawm. Vast acreages of supposed medieval tradition in European countries were simply invented in the 19th century, an age when anything that underpinned a sense of national identity held favour. Nowhere is this 'invention' more clear than in the nations which make up the UK. Scottish family tartans, which American tourists pay good dollars to buy in Princes Street Edinburgh, are largely a fiction, prior to tourism.
    – WS2
    Dec 21, 2014 at 19:16
  • Hey, remember that kid Froggy, from "The Little Rascals"?
    – Oldbag
    Dec 22, 2014 at 12:41

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