shanks' mare

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See also: shank's mare


Alternative forms[edit]

  • shanks's mare, shank's mare, shanks mare


The expression -- believed to be Scottish in origin -- derives from shanks' nag (shanks-naig 1774), referring to the use of shank to refer to the part of the human leg between the knee and ankle. One theory cites "shank's mare" derived from a horse-drawn lawn mower, manufactured by Shanks & Company Ltd. (founded 1853) which required that the human operator walk behind the device to guide the horse; however, references to the phrase in Scottish literature pre-date the existence of the Shanks lawn mower.


shanks' mare (countable and uncountable, plural shanks' mares)

  1. (US, idiomatic) One's own legs used for walking; to "travel by shanks' mare" or "ride [on] shanks' mare" is to walk to your destination.
    • 1923, Harris Dickson, “The Proof”, in The Red Book Magazine, volume 41, number 6:
      “Well! Well! Here's Aunt Cannie. Waiting for your car?”
      “No suh, Mr. Henry. Shank's mare is plenty good fer me. I been ridin' dis ol' mare for more'n a hund'ed years.”
    • 1942. Transit Journal, McGraw Hill, page 173[1]:
      Once they take to Shanks' mare, they are all equal.
    • 1869. The Dubuque Daily Herald, Dubuque, Iowa, May 1869:
      A public exhibition of the velocipede [a predecessor of the bicycle] ... will never come into general use in competition with Shank's mare.
    • 2003. John O'Flaherty, Rafferty, p. 77[2]:
      The last thing we'd want to be seen using shanks mare, even though the day is holding up well.

Related terms[edit]