I've noticed that English seems to have a set of adjectival phrases like "faint of heart", "fleet of foot", "narrow of mind", or "strong of will" of the form {ADJ + "of" + N"}, where it seems the noun is most often if not always in the singular (e.g. "wide of eye", "broad of shoulder") and always refers to a part of the body (or some other inalienably possessed trait like "voice" or "soul").

Purely for the sake of curiosity, I'd like to know: Is there a name for this type of phrase and/or the use of this specific construction?

Something that might be worth mentioning is that with every example I've been able find, there appears to be an equivalent compound adjective (or "parasynthetic adjective") to go along with it — for instance, in addition to the forms listed previously, "faint-hearted", "fleet-footed", "narrow-minded", and "strong-willed" all exist as well. The two constructions seem to be so semantically linked that I've even seen some authors use this fact for poetic effect; even though the idiom is "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed", there are nevertheless several results for "bright of eye and bushy of tail" when searching on Google Books.

While I don't have a comprehensive list of examples, here are just a few more that I've dug up: "short of stature", "quick of wit", "pale of face", "fair of skin", "pure of heart", "deft of hand", "sharp of claw", "long of tooth", "deep of chest", "slim of waist", "slight of frame", "hot of temper", "silver of tongue", and "nimble of finger", among others.

Once again, any and all help with my request is very much appreciated. And even if nothing else comes of this, I'm honestly just happy to be compiling all this information in case it might come in handy for anyone out there learning English. God knows there have been plenty of times as a French learner that I've wished there were this kind of documentation for whatever random, obscure quirk of grammar I'd stumbled across, but I digress~

  • Hiawathaese? (Fleet of foot…)
    – David
    Sep 8, 2020 at 18:50
  • It should be noted that these phrases would generally be considered idioms. In terms of syntax there is nothing remarkable about them -- simply an adjective modified by a prepositional phrase.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 8, 2020 at 20:53

1 Answer 1


Is there a name for phrases like “faint of heart” or “fleet of foot”?

No. It is simply a valid, although old-fashioned, poetic, or literary, construction. It is an adjectival phrase comprising and adjective and an adverbial phrase.

  • I never knew that being hard of hearing was old fashioned.
    – tchrist
    Sep 11, 2020 at 5:38

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