I was wondering if the term has Indian origins? I recently came across it in the Animal Farm :

"But is this simply part of the order of nature? Is it because this land of ours is so poor that it cannot offer a decent life to those who dwell on it? No, comrades, a thousand times no! The soil of England is fertile..."

This is a very common phrase in Hindi/Urdu - "nahi, hazaar martaba nahi !"

Note also that George Orwell was born in India.

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  • Blair was born in what is now the state of Bihar in northeast India, but his mother returned to England with him when he was one year old. When Blair was 19, he returned to the Raj for a five-year stint in the Indian Imperial Police, but he was stationed in Burma, which was then administered as part of India. – deadrat Nov 30 '15 at 5:52
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    My dim memory insists the phrase originates from the Arabic: 'And in Arabic, to say "no," we say "no, and a thousand times no."' – JEL Nov 30 '15 at 5:57
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    If this Ngram is to be believed, the phrase was common a century before Animal Farm. But I'll bet it derived from an earlier non-English phrase. – Nonnal Nov 30 '15 at 7:34
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    If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times -- this is the sort of expression that is apt to be "invented" and re-invented numerous times before it becomes an "official" idiom. – Hot Licks Dec 1 '15 at 0:30
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    @Ricky: The link in your comment is broken because it SE didn't recognize the final !'s as part of it. Here's a URL-encoded version: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No%21_No%21_A_Thousand_Times_No%21%21 – 3D1T0R Aug 1 '18 at 19:25

Why, this it is: my heart accords thereto,
And yet a thousand times it answers, ‘no.’

The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act I. Scene III (last line in the scene)

By William Shakespeare, believed to have been written sometime between 1589-1593

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  • Good ole bard. He's amazing....I can never get enough of him. :) – Lambie Aug 1 '18 at 19:19
  • Legend has it he didn't write any of it. – Darshan Chaudhary Aug 2 '18 at 9:53

I think you would be hard-pressed to definitively locate the origin in another language. It doesn't seem out of place in English. However, your idea is quite plausible, and I'm curious as to whether anyone can prove you right.

Here is the phrase in English in a romantic farce published in 1807. (The publication is described as a new edition.)

Around this time, the East was a significant force in Western (and English-based) thought and cultural production.

So was the British Empire, which undoubtedly picked up many an expression from far and wide.

But if the expression is used in Arabic (as the comments here suggest) as well as Hindi/Urdu, who is to say for sure what influenced what, and what other language(s) might have been the origin of the English phrase instead?

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"Et, d'ailleurs, les embarras, la dépense … Ah! non, non, mille fois non! Cela eût été trop bête!" Madame Bovary -Gustave Flaubert 1857 English translation: “And, moreover, the embarrassments, the expense ... Ah! No, no, a thousand times no! It would have been too stupid!”

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  • Welcome to English Language and Usage. Please take the tour and when you have a moment, read-up in the help center about how we work. – Bitter dreggs. Mar 23 at 8:48

The expression "a thousand times" is a well-known and very old exaggeration (hyperbole). "No, comrades, a thousand times no!" is simply an example of the use of this literary and rhetorical device. It has no independent origin. "A thousand times" is merely emphatic, and thus it is not surprising that it is found across many languages.

Bible 1611

De:1:10: The LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude. De:1:11: (The LORD God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as ye are, and bless you, as he hath promised you!)

"The Arabian Nights'entertainments" 1808:

I consider my kingdom, great and powerful as it is, as of no value, when I have the pleasure of seeing you, and of telling you a thousand times how much I love you.

"Letters to a Prebendary" John Milner - 1800:

... my History, and by common place topics of misrepresentation and calumny against the religion of our ancestors under the illiberal and abusive term of Popery (1); such as have been a thousand times urged, and a thousand times refuted.

The OED gives it the status of a phrase and dates its origin to the very late 19th century, but I cannot see that the phrase is anything other than an adaptation:

  1. a. Often used vaguely or hyperbolically for a large number: cf. hundred n. and adj.So ten thousand, thousands, thousands of thousands, thousand and one.

c1000 Ags. Ps. (1835) iii. 5 Ic me nu na ondræde þusendu folces.

b. Phrases: a thousand times, no: certainly not; similarly a thousand times, yes (rare); I believe you, thousands wouldn't (and similar expressions): ambiguous responses to remarks received with scepticism; death of (or by) a thousand cuts: a succession of minor hurts that are cumulatively very serious or annoying; ...

1896 ‘M. Rutherford’ Clara Hopgood v. 57 ‘No,’ said Madge, ‘a thousand times no.’

1897 H. James Spoils of Poynton xxii. 279 A thousand times yes—her choice should know no scruple.

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