touch the hem of someone's garment

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English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

An allusion to the Biblical tale (Matthew 9:20) of the woman who was cured of disease when she touched the hem of Christ's garment.

Verb[edit]

touch the hem of someone's garment

  1. (idiomatic) To give respect or reverence to someone; to express servitude to someone; to draw strength or comfort from someone who is superior.
    • 1847, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Evangeline, Part the First, I:
      Thus, at peace with God and the world, the farmer of Grand-Pré
      Lived on his sunny farm, and Evangeline governed his household.
      Many a youth, as he knelt in the church and opened his missal,
      Fixed his eyes upon her, as the saint of his deepest devotion;
      Happy was he who might touch her hand or the hem of her garment!
    • 1903, Irving Bacheller, Darrel of the Blessed Isles, ch 29:
      "I do love you," he said with a strong effort to control himself, "but I am not worthy to touch the hem of your garment."
    • 1994 March 9, Todd S. Purdum, "Clinton's Coming to New York, But Mayor May Skip Invitation," New York Times (retrieved 17 Sept 2014):
      President Clinton is due at Brooklyn College. . . . "If he just wants to cut a ribbon or let us touch the hem of his garment, we don't need that."
    • 2001 June 24, Richard Lacayo, "A Hero's Welcome," Time (retrieved 17 Sept 2014):
      Nelson Mandela . . . can bathe in the adulation of a worldwide throng yearning to, if not touch the hem of his garment, at least catch a glimpse of him whirring by in a motorcade.