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Is there any other way you can "wax" as you do when you "wax philosophical"?
What does "waxed rhapsodic" mean?

Sorry to keep this short, but some people can wax lyrical about this and I'm not sure it's as mystical and magical as some will make out.

I understand it intuitively, but would like to have the exact definition.

marked as duplicate by Daniel, aedia λ, Matt E. Эллен, Thursagen, simchona Sep 8 '11 at 22:17

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  • 2
    See Other ways to wax. – Kit Z. Fox Sep 8 '11 at 17:51
  • Do you want to know what wax means, or what lyrical means? You can look them both up in a dictionary - wax here means grow/become; lyrical means poetic. – Daniel Sep 8 '11 at 18:03

The idiom wax lyrical means to talk about something with a lot of enthusiasm.

There are similar idioms, like wax eloquent (talk about something eloquently), wax poetic (talk about something in flowery speech) and wax wroth (talk about something angrily or with agitation).

Lyric comes from the classical instrument, the lyre. The word was transformed via old french to mean a "short poem expressing personal emotion". Wax means "to grow". So literally it means "to grow in poetic and emotional speech", but usually the phrase just emphasizes the interest and excitement the speaker has for the topic.


Wax is from the Old English weaxan meaning to grow.

So you grow lyrical when you start to describe something poetically.

  • I don't agree that it has to be necessarily poetic or flowery speech, this may be the literal interpretation but that's not the usage of the idiom. – ghoppe Sep 8 '11 at 17:40

According to the Phrase Finder, to wax lyrical does mean to describe something in increasingly expansive, expressive ways (or at to describe it least enthusiastically). This phrase is used interchangeably with "wax poetic," and in about the same proportions (ngram), though they have both gotten significantly more popular in the last twenty years.

  • +1 for the ngram link above all else! I did a double-take when I read "in about the same proportions", so I followed your link. In fact, checking American- and British-only usage reveals that "wax poetic" is almost entirely an Americanism (as a Brit, I've rarely heard it). I was also surprised to see that neither of them had any particular currency until about a century ago - I thought they were both archaic, but obviously they're just lightheartedly using the archaic "wax" (for poetic effect! :) – FumbleFingers Sep 8 '11 at 23:57
  • that's really weird. It flies in the teeth of what Merriem Webster say (that it is chiefly British) merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wax%20lyrical – Daniel Nov 15 '17 at 19:49

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