Goody Two-Shoes, Meaning and Origin

Meaning:

This phrase is used to describe a very honest person or someone who does good things.

Example: It was a fantastic day outside. The weather was ideal for walking, so I went out for a short stroll around the block. I came to a stoplight and there was an older woman nearby. She wanted to cross the street, but it looked like she was having difficulty walking, so I helped her across. After reaching the other side with her, someone called me a goody two-shoes, but he almost sounded sarcastic when he said it.

Synonyms / Related Phrases:
Goody-goody
Teacher’s pet
A nice pair of two blue shoes with tied laces.
Do you think Margery Meanwell (a character from the story mentioned below) would like these pair of shoes?

‘Goody Two-Shoes’ Origin

The origin of this phrase is unknown, however, it’s believed that this expression was popularized by the book The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes, published in 1765. To summarize the story in this book, it’s about a poor girl by the name of Margery Meanwell. She’s an orphan, and goes through her life with only a single shoe. Later on, some rich person decides to give Margery a full pair of shoes, and so she’s pretty ecstatic after that. In fact, she’s so happy that she tells everyone about her two new shoes, which eventually earned her the nickname of Goody Two-Shoes.

Having said that, the expression is older than that story. According to a few places, such as World Wide Words, this idiom was apparently used in a poem called Voyage to Ireland in Burlesque by an English poet named Charles Cotton, 1670:

“Mistress mayoress complained that the pottage was cold;

‘And all long of your fiddle-faddle,’ quoth she.

‘Why, then, Goody Two-shoes, what if it be?

Hold you, if you can, your tittle-tattle,’ quoth he.”

This would mean the phrase is over 340 years old.


Example Sentence(s)

  1. Everybody at school said that Allen was a goody two-shoes after they saw him help a girl clean up her lunch that she accidentally dropped.

Note: This website has theĀ origins and meanings for phrases and sayings. Looking back through history, it’s tough to find the place or person in which a phrase has its roots. We are limited to what can be found in writings, such as books, poems, newspapers, and plays. Often times, phrases will be quoted from century old newspapers or plays that were done a long time ago.

The phrases that are quoted are likely already commonly known, and have their origins elsewhere. For instance, just because an idiom shows up in a newspaper from 1850, does not mean the idiom originated from that newspaper. However, what that does tell you, is that the phrase was being used since 1850. So its origins are at least more than 150 years old.