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sweetness and light

extreme or excessive pleasantness or amiability.
decorous charm combined with intelligence.
1695-1705 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for sweetness and light
  • Let's talk about the hummingbird, which a lot of people think is kind of a unicorn on wings, all sweetness and light.
  • The pursuit of the perfect, then, is the pursuit of sweetness and light.
  • The two noblest things, which are sweetness and light.
  • To silence such critics you need more than sweetness and light.
  • Hardly fighting talk but an unusual admission that not all was sweetness and light.
  • How long the sweetness and light will last is another matter.
  • The only way for an artist to succeed, the film reiterates, is by peddling icky sweetness and light.
  • She wanders through the sad little story spreading sweetness and light when she should have been stimulating our tear ducts.
  • Don't believe the sweetness and light routine you see on the show.
  • The agreement was not all sweetness and light for other players in the long-running drama.
British Dictionary definitions for sweetness and light

sweetness and light

an apparently affable reasonableness
Word Origin
C19: adopted by Matthew Arnold from Swift's Battle of the Books (1704)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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sweetness and light in Culture

sweetness and light definition

A phrase popularized by the nineteenth-century English author Matthew Arnold; it had been used earlier by Jonathan Swift. According to Arnold, sweetness and light are two things that a culture should strive for. “Sweetness” is moral righteousness, and “light” is intellectual power and truth. He states that someone “who works for sweetness and light united, works to make reason and the will of God prevail.”

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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Idioms and Phrases with sweetness and light

sweetness and light

Ostentatious amiability and friendliness, as in One day she has a temper tantrum, the next day she's all sweetness and light. This phrase was coined by Jonathan Swift in his Battle of the Books (1704), where it referred literally to the products of bees: honey and light from beeswax candles. But in Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy (1869), the term meant “beauty and intelligence.” In the 20th century, however, it was applied to personal qualities of friendliness and courtesy and to the general pleasantness of a situation, as in Working with him isn't all sweetness and light, you know. Today it is generally used ironically, indicating lack of trust in a person's seeming friendliness or for a difficult situation.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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