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From the past participle of dye in the wool. The expression comes from the fact that fabric can be dyed in a number of ways. The woven fabric may be dyed after it is complete, or the threads may be dyed before they are woven. When a color is "dyed in the wool," the wool itself is dyed before being spun into threads, so the colour is least likely to fade or change. (Dyes: Webster’s Quotations, Facts and Phrases. Icon Group International. 2008, p. 344.)


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /ˌdaɪd ɪn ðə ˈwʊl/
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dyed-in-the-wool (comparative more dyed-in-the-wool, superlative most dyed-in-the-wool)

  1. (of textiles) Having the fibres dyed before they are formed into cloth.
    • 1747, John Smith, Chronicon Rusticum-Commerciale; or, Memoirs of Wool, &c., London: T. Osborne, Volume 2, Chapter 156, p. 431,[1]
      [] some Druggets with Thread, that are dyed in the Piece; the others are dyed in the Wool, i. e. the Wool of which they are made, is dyed of several Colours, before it is carded, spun, and weaved.
    • 1810, “Redeeming the Time,” The Evangelical Magazine, Volume 18, January, 1810, p. 7,[2]
      That cloth will keep its colour best that is dyed in the wool; and the vessel will longest retain the scent of that liquor with which it is first seasoned.
  2. (idiomatic, figuratively, of a person) Firmly established in one's beliefs or habits; having a specified characteristic, identity, etc. deeply ingrained in one's nature.
    Synonym: inveterate
    Smith was a dyed-in-the-wool typist and never really got used to writing on computers.
    John Major was described by his opponents as a dyed-in-the-wool Conservative.
    • 1820, Daniel Webster, A Discourse Delivered at Plymouth, December 22, 1820, Boston: Wells and Lilly, 1830, p. 101,[3]
      We all know a process, sir, by which the whole Essex Junto could, in one hour, be all washed white from their ancient federalism, and come out, every one of them, an original democrat, dyed in the wool!
    • 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, Boston: Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, “Introductory,” p. 18,[4]
      He might truly be termed a legitimate son of the revenue system, dyed in the wool, or rather, born in the purple; since his sire, a Revolutionary colonel, and formerly collector of the port, had created an office for him, and appointed him to fill it, at a period of the early ages which few living men can now remember.
    • 1956, Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond, London: Collins, Chapter 23,[5]
      For all he says he isn’t, he’s a bit of an ultramontane, in practice though not in theory, and we can’t have that in the Church of England, we must stay dyed-in-the-wool Anglican.
    • 2004, Philip Roth, The Plot against America, London: Jonathan Cape, Chapter 8, p. 304,[6]
      Our president is no lover of Jews and more than likely a dyed-in-the-wool anti-Semite []
    • 2021 April 7, Christian Wolmar, “Electrification is a given... but comfort matters as well”, in RAIL, number 928, page 47:
      Again, to go back to the history of British Railways, there were moves to introduce electrification more widely when the West Coast Main Line was sparked up in the 1960s, but this was rejected by dyed-in-the-wool old regional railway managers who did not like the hassle of putting up the wires.

Usage notes[edit]

The expression "dyed in the wool" refers to a state of steadfastness, especially with respect to one's political, religious or social beliefs.