touch the hem of someone's garment

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An allusion to the Biblical tale (Matthew 9:20) of the woman who was cured of disease when she touched the hem of Christ's garment.


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touch the hem of someone's garment (third-person singular simple present touches the hem of someone's garment, present participle touching the hem of someone's garment, simple past and past participle touched the hem of someone's garment)

  1. (idiomatic) To give respect or reverence to someone; to express servitude to someone; to draw strength or comfort from someone who is superior.
    • 1847, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Evangeline, Part the First, I:
      Thus, at peace with God and the world, the farmer of Grand-Pré
      Lived on his sunny farm, and Evangeline governed his household.
      Many a youth, as he knelt in the church and opened his missal,
      Fixed his eyes upon her, as the saint of his deepest devotion;
      Happy was he who might touch her hand or the hem of her garment!
    • 1903, Irving Bacheller, chapter 29, in Darrel of the Blessed Isles:
      "I do love you," he said with a strong effort to control himself, "but I am not worthy to touch the hem of your garment."
    • 1994 March 9, Todd S. Purdum, "Clinton's Coming to New York, But Mayor May Skip Invitation," New York Times (retrieved 17 Sept 2013):
      President Clinton is due at Brooklyn College. . . . "If he just wants to cut a ribbon or let us touch the hem of his garment, we don't need that."
    • 2001 June 24, Richard Lacayo, "A Hero's Welcome," Time (retrieved 17 Sept 2013):
      Nelson Mandela . . . can bathe in the adulation of a worldwide throng yearning to, if not touch the hem of his garment, at least catch a glimpse of him whirring by in a motorcade.

See also[edit]