gild the lily


1 [gild]
verb (used with object), gilded or gilt, gilding.
to coat with gold, gold leaf, or a gold-colored substance.
to give a bright, pleasing, or specious aspect to.
Archaic. to make red, as with blood.
gild the lily, to add unnecessary ornamentation, a special feature, etc., in an attempt to improve something that is already complete, satisfactory, or ideal: After that wonderful meal, serving a fancy dessert would be gilding the lily.

1300–50; Middle English gilden, Old English -gyldan; akin to gold

gildable, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
gild1 (ɡɪld)
vb , gilds, gilding, gilded, gilt
1.  to cover with or as if with gold
2.  gild the lily
 a.  to adorn unnecessarily something already beautiful
 b.  to praise someone inordinately
3.  to give a falsely attractive or valuable appearance to
4.  archaic to smear with blood
[Old English gyldan, from goldgold; related to Old Norse gylla, Middle High German vergülden]

gild2 (ɡɪld)
a variant spelling of guild

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

O.E. gyldan, from P.Gmc. *gulthianan (cf. O.N. gylla "to guild"), from *gulthan "gold."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

gild the lily definition

To adorn unnecessarily something that is already beautiful or perfect: “Morty had us all believing his tall tale until he couldn't resist gilding the lily.”

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

gild the lily

Add unnecessary adornment or supposed improvement. For example, Offering three different desserts after that elaborate meal would be gilding the lily. This expression is a condensation of Shakespeare's metaphor in King John (4:2): "To gild refined gold, to paint the lily ... is wasteful and ridiculous excess." [c. 1800]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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