dog in the manger

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A 1666 etching by Wenceslaus Hollar illustrating the fable of the dog in the manger


From a Greek fable about a dog preventing other animals from eating the hay in a manger, even though as a carnivore it could not eat the hay itself. Although the story was ascribed to Aesop's Fables in the 15th century, no ancient source does so.


dog in the manger (plural dogs in mangers)

  1. (idiomatic) Someone who denies to others something that he or she cannot use.
    • 1930, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, “Notes on the Way to Dandi”, in Non-Violent Resistance, page 246:
      No adjective is strong enough for characterizing this wicked dog-in-the-manger policy. From various sources I hear tales of such wanton destruction of nations' property in all parts of India.