the dear knows

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Unclear. Bliss and Dolan suggest a conflation of dear, as in "oh dear" or "the Dear Lord", and deer, by analogy with the conflation in Irish of Fiadha "God" and fiadh "deer".

Phrase[edit]

the dear knows

  1. (Ireland, dated) God knows; nobody knows
    • 1806 'Caleb Thistle' "How are the mighty fallen!" in The Evening Fire-side; or Literary Miscellany (Philadelphia; 10 May 1806) Vol.II No.19 p.147:
      O thou, whom poets call Melpomene,
      Who hast inspir'd, the dear knows how many
      In ancient times to sing O Dear O's
      On hapless fates of unknown heroes,
    • 19th century Anonymous Irish or Scottish ballad, I Know Where I’m Going:
      I know where I’m going,
      I know who’s going with me,
      I know who I love,
      But the dear knows who I’ll marry.
    • 2004 Cynthia Harrod-Eagles The Dear Departed p.205:
      And there it sits, spreading rubbish about because of the cats, and smelling like the Dear knows what.
  2. (Ireland, dated) God knows; of course, certainly, nobody could doubt
    • 1914 James Joyce, "A Mother" in Dubliners:
      Then she gave a little sigh and said: “Ah, well! We did our best, the dear knows.”
    • 1939 Flann O'Brien At Swim-two-birds, Chapter One:
      The dear knows your father worked hard enough for the money he is laying out on your education.

References[edit]