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.

  • 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
  • 1
    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
  • 1
    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
  • 2
    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
  • 1
    @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

  • 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?

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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