5 August 2017

How did that come around? – “Lion’s share”

While trying to learn about the phrase, I learnt something that surprised me – we actually use the phrase in an incorrect way! We always think of this phrase as “majority share” or a “large proportion”. However, this is not how it was meant to be.

The origins of this phrase goes back to Aesop’s fables. While there are various versions of it – they all lead to the same thing – after the lion and two of his subjects (the animals vary in different versions and in certain versions there are three other animals who accompany him) got all the kill from their hunting session, the lion did the sharing of the food by essentially staking claim to the entire food collection – in parts by logic, in parts by power and in parts by instilling fear. For example, in the more popular and the oldest version, the lion claimed the first one-third since he was the king, the second thirds was to be assigned to him by the other two since he was a partner and the last third would be his since bodily harm would come to anybody who touched it.

The moral of the story was that partnership between two that vary immensely in power is never going to be trustworthy.

Therefore a “lion’s share” is actually meant to say “the whole of it”.

I have not been able to figure out yet, how the modern day version of “a majority share” came about.

Posted August 5, 2017 by Rajib Roy in category "Word Play


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