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Beard (To)

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To beard one is to defy him, to contradict him flatly, to insult by plucking the beard. Among the Jews, no greater insult could be offered to a man than to pluck or even touch his beard.

To beard the lion in his den. To contradict one either in his own growlery, or on some subject he has made his hobby. To defy personally or face to face.

Darʹst thou, then,

To beard the lion in his den,

The Douglas in his hall?”


Sir W. Scott: Marmion, canto vi. stanza 14.

Maugre his beard. In spite of him.

To laugh at one’s beard. To attempt to make a fool of a person—to deceive by ridiculous exaggeration.


“‘By the prophet! but he laughs at our beards,ʹ exclaimed the Pacha angrily. ‘These are foolish lies.ʹ”—Marryat: Pacha of Many Tales.

To laugh in one’s beard [“Rire dans sa barbe”] To laugh in one’s sleeve.

To run in one’s beard. To offer opposition to a person; to do something obnoxious to a person before his face. The French say, “à la barbe de quelquʹun,” under one’s very nose.

With the beard on the shoulder (Spanish). In the attitude of listening to overhear something, ⁂ with circumspection, looking in all directions for surprises and ambuscades.


“They rode, as the Spanish proverb expresses it, ‘with the beard on the shoulder,ʹ looking round from time to time, and using every precaution … against pursuit.”—Sir W. Scott: Peveril of the Peak, chap. vii.

Tax upon beards. Peter the Great imposed a tax upon beards. Every one above the lowest class had to pay 100 roubles, and the lowest class had to pay a copec, for enjoying this “luxury.” Clerks were stationed at the gates of every town to collect the beard-tax.

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Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

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