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In the movie Camelot, Lancelot told Guenevere that "your face has a luster, that puts gold to shame."

What does "put to shame" mean in this context?

2 Answers 2

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"X puts Y to shame" means "X is so good at something that Y, while normally good at that thing, looks terrible in comparison."

Gold is something with a lot of luster, but Lancelot is telling Guenevere that her face has much, much more luster than Gold -- not literally, of course. This is an example of hyperbole.

"X puts Y to shame" can also be used without hyperbole. If a famous runner is outrun by an untrained amateur, it could be said that the amateur put the runner to shame. Quite literally, he caused the runner to be ashamed by failing to be better.

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In this context, the sentence means that "the luster of your face is so much more than gold".

'Put to shame' means 'embarrass'. In this particular sentence, the luster of your face is so much that, it would embarrass gold.

Some other uses are:

The veteran athlete put to shame many of his younger compatriots by his speed.

and

The fresh graduates were put to shame by the work done by the experienced developer.
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  • Huh, that's funny that we both used a runner as an example.
    – Alan
    Commented Jul 15, 2011 at 19:46
  • great minds... and such :)
    – rest_day
    Commented Jul 15, 2011 at 19:47

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