gild the lily

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A common misquotation of a line from William Shakespeare's play King John.[1]


  • IPA(key): /ˈɡɪld ðə ˈlɪli/
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gild the lily (third-person singular simple present gilds the lily, present participle gilding the lily, simple past and past participle gilded the lily)

  1. (idiomatic) To embellish or improve something unnecessarily.
    Synonyms: go overboard, over-egg the pudding
  2. To add superfluous attributes to something.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ William Shakespeare (1595), “act IV, scene 2”, in The Life and Death of King John[1]:
    SALISBURY. Therefore, to be possess'd with double pomp, To guard a title that was rich before, To gild refined gold, to paint the lily, to throw a perfume on the violet, to smooth the ice, or add another hue unto the rainbow, or with taper-light to seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish, is wasteful and ridiculous excess.