poor as a church mouse

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Alteration of earlier hungry as a church mouse, from the fact that Catholic and Orthodox priests are called to scrupulously prevent any crumb of the sacrament of Eucharist (the bread which is understood to be Christ's body) from falling on the altar or to the ground, meaning that church mice had no crumbs to feed on.

Which seems to be a corruption of the even earlier expression “as quiet as a church mouse” from the 1300s.


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(as) poor as a church mouse (not comparable)

  1. (simile) Very poor, to the point of starving or begging; utterly destitute.
    • 2009, September 23, Mark Gould, Former heroin addict inspires growing optimism from the wild side, The Guardian,
      I'm poor as a church mouse, but I wake up a happy man.
    • 1932, April 9, Isidor Schneider, Hard Luck Of Poets, The New York Times,
      "As poor as a poet" would be quite as comprehensible as "as poor as a church mouse."
    • 2008, John Beatty, The Citizen-Soldier, page 17
      She was an Eastern Virginia woman, and, although poor as a church mouse, thought herself superior to West Virginia people.
    • 1844, a Mouse (sic), Le Peuple Souriquois: An Historical Sketch, in The New Monthly Magazine and Humorist, vol. 71, pt. 2, page 428
      But to return to our public functions; that we have had a decided turn for the church appears from the fact that the church-mouse is a recognised order amongst us, and it is our just pride that we alone have preserved the genuine character of the institution as founded by the Apostles, inasmuch as our poverty has passed into a proverb— "as poor as a church-mouse."
    Synonyms: poor as a rat, poor as Job; see also Thesaurus:impoverished