I came across the idiom "cutting remark." I wondered whether it could have originated from Proverbs 12:18, which in the Geneva Bible published in 1599 was Translated from the Hebrew "There is that speaketh words like the prickings of [k]a sword: but the tongue of wise men is health" The annotation [k] added by the translators to this verse is "Which seek nothing more than to provoke others to anger." The King James Version published in 1611 uses the identical translation but omits the footnote. Has anyone traced the English usage of "cutting remark" to its origin?

  • What makes you think it had a single origin?
    – Hot Licks
    May 21, 2017 at 12:13

1 Answer 1


The word cutting alone has had a figurative meaning since before the publication of the biblical translation you mentioned, according to Oxford English Dictionary.

That acutely wounds the mind or feelings.


1582 R. Stanyhurst tr. Virgil First Foure Bookes Æneis iv. 78 Dido the poore Princesse gauld with such destenye cutting, Crau's mortal passadge.

1652 C. B. Stapylton tr. Herodian Imperiall Hist. xiv. 115 Their cutting quips and wonted jeering.

The phrase "cutting remark" is not an idiom by itself per se, but a use of this figurative term "cutting" applied to a remark. Other terms can be described as cutting, like in the example from 1652, quips.

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