Comparisons are odious

This proverb dates back to the fifteenth century. It means that we should not make comparisons between two people, because it is very likely unjust to one or other of them – or to both. This kind of comparison is termed an odious comparison.

The earliest recorded use of this phrase appears to be by John Lydgate in his Debate between the horse, goose, and sheep, circa 1440:

“Odyous of olde been comparisonis, And of comparisonis engendyrd is haterede.”

It was used by several authors later, notably Cervantes, Christopher Marlowe and John Donne.

In Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare gave Dogberry the line ‘comparisons are odorous’. It seems that he was using this ironically, knowing it to be a misuse of what would have been a well known phrase by 1599 when the play was written.


Related Content

Put wool over other people’s...

To deceive or trick somebody. She’s to smart for you to put wool...
Read more →

Be all things to all people

To be everything that is wanted by all people. Vlora, a coastal city...
Read more →

All cats love fish but hate to get...

Everyone wants success but many lack the self-discipline to become...
Read more →