bright young thing

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bright young thing (plural bright young things)

  1. (idiomatic, sometimes capitalized) One who is youthful, clever, eager, and high-spirited in manner and attractive in appearance.
    • 1869, R. D. Blackmore, chapter 10, in Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor:
      Mr. Faggus gave his mare a wink, and she walked demurely after him, a bright young thing, flowing over with life, yet dropping her soul to a higher one, and led by love to anything; as the manner is of females.
    • 1902, Bret Harte, "Golly and the Christian" in Condensed Novels Second Series: New Burlesques:
      And even as her pure young voice arose above the screams of the departure whistle, she threw a double back-somersault on the quarterdeck, cleverly alighting on the spikes of the wheel before the delighted captain.
      "Jingle my electric bells," be said, looking at the bright young thing, "but you're a regular minx—"
    • 1918, Stephen Leacock, "The New Education" in Frenzied Fiction:
      "So you're going back to college in a fortnight," I said to the Bright Young Thing on the veranda of the summer hotel. "Aren't you sorry?"
      "In a way I am," she said, "but in another sense I'm glad to go back. One can't loaf all the time." . . .
      How full of purpose these modern students are, I thought to myself.
    • 1952 Jan. 14, "The Press: Strictly Personal," Time (retrieved 22 Aug 2014):
      YOUNG COLLEGE MAN, travelled, slightly peeved and irked, not disenchanted, would relish hearing from bright young things with gay outlook, brilliant notions.
    • 1994 March 20, Nigel Cope, "Bunhill: Above the crowd without a net," The Independent (UK) (retrieved 22 Aug 2014):
      Charles Wigoder, the 34-year-old chief executive of Peoples Phone, the mobile telephone business, is very much a bright young thing—the kind of businessman who features in magazine articles called '40 under 40', alongside other rising stars who have done unlikely things at unusual ages.
    • 2007 Dec. 3, Janet Maslin, "Dear Alfred, Gertie and Mummy-snooks: Love, Noelie" (book review of The Letters of Noël Coward ), New York Times (retrieved 22 Aug 2014):
      As a bright young thing—which, it could be argued, is what he remained until almost his dying day—Noël Coward wrote letters filled with effusive glee.
  2. (historical) Any of a group of bohemian young aristocrats and socialites in 1920s London.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Sometimes used condescendingly by older people.
  • Probably used more to refer to females than to males.

See also[edit]