an apple a day keeps the doctor away

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Of British origin; a similar proverb was recorded from Pembrokeshire, Wales, in 1866: “Eat an apple on going to bed, / And you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”[1] However, the idea that apples can cure disease is much older. In the play The Soddered Citizen (first performed c. 1631–1633) by the English author John Clavell (1601–1643), it is suggested that if a person who had heartburn had taken an apple and gone to bed, he would have been cured.[2]


  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /əˈn‿æpəl‿ə ˈdeɪ ˈkiːps ðə ˈdɒktəɹ‿əˈweɪ/
  • (General American) IPA(key): /əˈn‿æpəl‿ə ˈdeɪ ˈkips ðə ˈdɑktɚ əˈweɪ/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪ
  • Hyphenation: an ap‧ple a day keeps the doc‧tor away


an apple a day keeps the doctor away

  1. Apples are healthy and stave off illnesses.
    • 1919 August 26, Harvey W[ashington] Wiley, witness, “Statement of Dr. Harvey W. Wiley—Resumed”, in Cold-storage Legislation: Hearings before the Committee on Agriculture, House of Representatives, Sixty-sixth Congress, First Session on Cold-storage Legislation [], Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, OCLC 28790778, page 861:
      Now, an apple is one of the most wonderful of fruits, and the most wholesome. The old adage went, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," and my young son, three years ago, when he was only three years old, came to me with an amendment to that and said: "Father, two apples a day keeps the dentist away," because there is not a better toothbrush than the apple, and he got the idea that two apples a day would keep the dentist away.
    • 1922, Sinclair Lewis, chapter I, in Babbitt, New York, N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace and Company, OCLC 844076792, section IV, page 11:
      Of course I eat an apple every evening—an apple a day keeps the doctor away—but still, you ought to have more prunes, and not all these fancy doodads.
    • 1973 October 18, Thomas Grubisich, “When you deal with millions of apples a day”, in The Washington Post, Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post Company, ISSN 0190-8286, OCLC 638319713; quoted in “Statement of Bert E. Perry, Monitor Advocate, Virginia Employment Commission”, in Oversight Hearing on Department of Labor: Certification of the Use of Offshore Labor: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Agricultural Labor of the Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives, Ninety-fourth Congress, First Session [], Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 20 March 1975, OCLC 2172048, page 82:
      The apple has been as formidable in history as it has been in recipe books. [] It has inspired legend (Johnny Appleseed), nicknames (New York, "the big apple") and any number of old saws ("An apple a day keeps the doctor away").
    • 1984, Louise E. Efnor, “Kill or Cure”, in Jerrilee Cain-Tyson, John E. Hallwas, and Victor Hicken, editors, Tales from Two Rivers III (A Corncrib Publication), Macomb, Ill.: Two Rivers Arts Council, College of Fine Arts Development, Western Illinois University, OCLC 12338389, part IV (Receipts by Folks), page 118, column 1:
      The saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" is often countered with the one "an onion a day keeps everybody away". Whether these were even proven true or not I do not know but I do know that both apples and onions were among the staples kept in our home.
    • 2000 January, “Phrases from the Garden”, in Melvia A. Hasman, editor, English Teaching Forum: A Journal for the Teacher outside the United States, volume 38, number 1, Washington, D.C.: United States Information Agency, ISSN 0425-0656, OCLC 781634259, page 51, column 1:
      an apple a day keeps the doctor away—an apple is nutritious and you will stay healthy if you eat one every day. My mother always told us that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, so we would eat apples to stay healthy.
    • 2004, Jiaxin Chen, “Present Status and Prospects of Sea Cucumber Industry in China”, in Alessandro Lovatelli, Chantal Conand [et al.], editors, Advances in Sea Cucumber Aquaculture and Management (FAO Fisheries Technical Paper; 463), Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization, →ISBN, session I (Status of Resources and Utilization), page 35:
      An old saying in Western countries goes, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away", so now there is a new saying in China, "A sea cucumber a day keeps the doctor away".
  2. Healthy eating prevents illness.
    • 1887 November 26, “The Pomological Show”, in The Wrexham Advertiser, and North Wales News, volume XL, Wrexham, Clwyd: Selina Bayley, Charles George Bayley, and George Bradley, OCLC 1118620428, page 5, column 6:
      He advocated the increased use of fruit, for he believed in the old saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."
    • 1921 June 3, “Vegetables are cheap for food”, in Frank F. Prescott, editor, Weymouth Gazette and Transcript, volume LV, number 22 (number 2882 overall), Weymouth, Mass.: Gazette and Transcript Publishing Company, OCLC 14205452, 2nd section, page 11, column 3:
      The old adage, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," might quite as well have read "a carrot or an onion a day," and probably the result would be about the same as regards reducing the doctor's bill. Vegetables of all kinds are necessary in the diet, but particularly valuable are those available in the spring and summer, say specialists of the United States Department of Agriculture.
    • 2010 August 5, Michael C. Allen, chapter 2, in An Apple a Day: Getting Back to Basics Achieves Total Health and Wellness, Bloomington, Ind.: AuthorHouse, →ISBN, page 5:
      Many people believe that the concept of an "apple a day keeps the doctor away" is just a played out, overused saying that adults made up to get their children to eat healthier.

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  1. ^ John Pavin Phillips (24 February 1866), “A Pembrokeshire Proverb”, in Notes and Queries: A Medium of Inter-communication for Literary Men, General Readers, etc., volume IX, issue 217 (3rd Series), London: [] George Andrew Spottiswoode, [] [for] William Greig Smith, [], OCLC 611217138, page 153, column 2.
  2. ^ John Clavell (first performed c. 1631–1633) The Soddered Citizen (The Malone Society Reprints; 82), London: [] [F]or the Malone Society by John Johnson at the Oxford University Press, published 1936, OCLC 775648517, Act II, scene v, folio 14a, lines 1030–1033, page 45:
    Hee sett Promethius, on a merrye pynn, / Whoe dranke soe devillishly, that there he gott / A terrible heartburninge, (had hee tane / An apple then to beddwards, hee had beene cur'd, []

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