SUPPOSING that Truth is a woman—what then? Is there not ground for suspecting that all philosophers, in so far as they have been dogmatists, have failed to understand women—that the terrible seriousness and clumsy importunity with which they have usually paid their addresses to Truth, have been unskilled and unseemly methods for winning a woman?

What is the meaning of the bolded words in the above paragraph? Currently I interpret it as "behaves". I checked on online dictionary and it is not an idiom either.

  • 'Nodded their "respect" ' to (here, when they should have been on their knees, bowing in admiration and humble submission). They have been disrespectful and cavalier as regards observing Truth (ie they've not been too bothered about adhering to the truth). Commented May 2, 2020 at 15:19
  • This is apparently a translation from Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 2, 2020 at 15:24
  • Yes, preface of BGE (1886). I took a look at two of the translations I have. Cambridge: … pressed their suit … Stanford: … tended to approach … Of course, there are many other differences among these translations and that in the OP's question. Bottom line matter how you put: N is comparing the efforts of philosophers so far to fathom truth to clumsy efforts by clueless men to successfully woo a woman. But all this is off point. Commented May 2, 2020 at 19:58
  • By off point, I mean I didn't address your question directly. @tblue and Greybeard have both elegantly done so. Commented May 2, 2020 at 20:06
  • Yes, It's a quote from his book and thank you for your responses.
    – Quatrivius
    Commented May 3, 2020 at 0:49

2 Answers 2


with which they have usually paid their addresses to Truth

This seems to be a very dated piece of writing - I suspect it comes from (or is supposed to come from) the late 18th century. The whole phrase can be considered archaic.

However, "to pay" is the same "pay" as in "He paid her his respects." or "She paid him many compliments."

To pay, here = to give someone what they deserve or entitled to.

Addresses, here = a respectful and romantic approach of some sort (usually in person, but also in writing)

Thus: with which they have usually given their romantic words to Truth,


Address: 14. 2. An act or instance of addressing someone.

a. Chiefly in plural. A courteous personal approach directed towards another person, esp. an approach of an amorous nature; an advance. to pay (also make) one's addresses: (of a man) to make respectful overtures to a woman as a preliminary to a romantic involvement. Now chiefly archaic. Also: spec. †appropriate or courteous conduct shown towards a king or queen; respect; an instance of this (obsolete).

1903 Eng. Dial. Dict. IV. 528/1 When a young man paid his addresses to a young woman who did not reside in the same village as himself, it was the custom..to ‘pitcher’ him.

1998 H. Mantel Giant, O'Brien vii. 107 ‘Claffey means to pay you his proper addresses,’ Pybus said. ‘He is advanced in the art of courtship.’



OP quotes is from the Preface of:

Beyond Good and Evil - Friedrich Nietzsche, written 1886.

"... importunity with which they have usually paid their addresses/courted the favor of Truth, have been unskilled and unseemly methods for winning a woman?"

From the following additional examples of use:

  1. made romantic intentions known (whether to a male/female/parents of a female)

  2. to court the favor of

A Desk-book of Idioms and Idiomatic Phrases in English Speech and Literature By Frank H. Vizetelly, Leander Jan De Bekker - 1923

addresses, to pay one’s. To court the favor of; especially, to make suit to court, or woo; as, to pay one’s addresses to a lady.

  1. Primped - to try to make yourself more attractive by making small changes to your clothes, hair, etc., especially while looking at yourself in a mirror.

The Works of Garcilasso de la Vega, Surnamed the Prince of ...books.google.com › books

García LASSO DE LA VEGA (the Poet.), ‎Jeremiah Holmes WIFFEN - 1823 - ‎Spanish poetry

IT happened that a gentleman of Burgos courted a lady to whom Fernando of Alva also paid his addresses. It was in the year 1524, when harquebusses were ...

Notes and Queries: A Medium of Inter-Communication for Literary ..., Volume 25

“No one, I think, an read the trial of Spencer Cowper without being convinced that hew was entirely innocent of the crime; and so far from its being true, as stated in the extract given by W. D. (p. 91) from Wilkins’s Political Ballads, that Cowper “paid his addresses” to Sarah Stout, the woman alleged to have been murdered, it was proved in evidence that she paid her addresses to him (a married man), and that he carefully avoided her pressing solicitations.”

Among Pagodas and Fair Ladies: An Account of a Tour Through Burma By Gwendolen Trench Gascoigne - 1896

“… girls receive the tidings with charming flashes of their bright dancing brown eyes, and coquettish shrugs of their graceful little shoulders. The authorized courting, by which I mean the courting which takes place after the suitor has paid his addresses to the parents, and been approved by them, is carried on in a different and rather original manner.”

The Coquette. By the Author of “Miserrimus” [i.e. Frederic M. Reynolds].

"Her order was obeyed, and four very costly articles of furniture made their appearance. She then paid her addresses to her mirror; arranged her hair; smoothed her gown; tweedled her sleeves; examined her stockings, to see that they presented no rumples on the instep; remodeled the bows of her sandals; smiled complacently on her satin slippers; and, finally, gently and piquantly reclining on her sofa, languished over a volume of the New Heloise.”

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