Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth

The idiom Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth is an old saying that advises against questioning the value or worth of a gift. It originates from the practice of determining a horse’s age and health by looking at its teeth. When someone gave a horse as a gift, it would be considered rude and ungrateful to inspect its teeth, as it might suggest you are assessing its value and looking for flaws, instead of simply being thankful for the gift itself. Thus, the phrase has come to mean that one should not be overly critical or suspicious of a gift or opportunity given freely, but rather accept it with gratitude.

Some examples

  1. Birthday Present: When John complained about the color of the new phone his parents gave him for his birthday, his sister whispered, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, John. They tried their best to surprise you.”
  2. Workplace Bonus: After the company handed out bonuses, Sarah noticed her colleague grumbling about the amount. She reminded him, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth; many companies aren’t giving anything this year.”
  3. Unexpected Help: When Mike offered to help Tim with his project for free, Tim started doubting Mike’s motives. Tim’s wife told him, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth; you really need the help and Mike is being generous.”
  4. Used Car Gift: Emma’s uncle gifted her a used car, and she immediately started pointing out its old model and scratches. Her friend advised her, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, Emma. It’s a generous gift and saves you from buying a new one.”
  5. Charity Donation: When the small town received a donation from an unknown benefactor, some residents speculated about the reasons. The mayor said, “Let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. We should just be grateful and use this money wisely for our community.”

In context

When the local library received a donation of old books from a retiring professor, the librarian noticed some staff members scrutinizing the collection for rare editions. She gathered her team and said, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Yes, these books are old, but they hold a wealth of knowledge and history that our patrons will appreciate. Let’s focus on the generous spirit in which they were given and the new worlds they will open for our readers, rather than their market value.” The team nodded, understanding the value of appreciation over appraisal in this unexpected gift.

Similar ones

Here are some idioms similar in sentiment to “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” which generally convey the idea of accepting gifts or opportunities without criticism:

  1. Beggars can’t be choosers: This means that if you’re in need and someone offers you something, you should not be picky or overly critical of what is given.
  2. Never bite the hand that feeds you: This warns against acting ungratefully or negatively towards someone who is providing for you or helping you out.
  3. Count your blessings: This is a reminder to be grateful for what you have, rather than complaining about what you don’t have or what you wish was different.
  4. Look a gift horse in the eye: While less common, this variation conveys a similar meaning to not scrutinize or question gifts too closely.
  5. A gift in the hand is worth two in the bush: This is a reminder to appreciate and value what you have now, rather than risking it for potential future gains.
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