As far as I know "candy" function as a noun only. However I came across this saying by Virginia Woolf "Really I don't like human nature unless all candied over with art". This phrasal verb makes me confused. Please help me!

  • 1
    Yes, if you take candied over to mean "sweetened", then you understand what she's saying... As the saying goes, "a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down". Taken straight, humanity is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow. ;)
    – Tim Ward
    Jan 25, 2016 at 17:49
  • You are surely right. Our humanity is sometimes like, say, a wild horse losing its direction. Art fondles and calm him down :)) Jan 25, 2016 at 17:57
  • "Candy-coated" is a more common expression, but the meaning is the same. US
    – Oldbag
    Jan 27, 2016 at 12:57

2 Answers 2


To candy can be used as a verb, or at least an adjectival verb: candied fruit, meaning fruit preserved in syrup and then dried. Woolf here is liberally adapting that usage to the abstract concept of human nature. Her view is that human nature is detestable unless it is made more palatable (candied over) by the ennobling power of art.

  • 1
    Any cook would understand what the verb "candy" means -- preserve using sugar. So it doesn't occur just in the participle form.
    – Greg Lee
    Jan 25, 2016 at 18:21

to candy over would be the same thing as to sugarcoat.

Often writers will try to avoid cliches. For me, this is an example of that. If you sugarcoat something, you spread sugar over it. A sugarcoated pill. As a verb: to sugarcoat the problem (pretend it isn't one, for example).

to candy over [human nature] to candy over [a problem]. to sugarcoat [human nature] to sugarcoast [a problem]

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