If a person is making a mountain out of a molehill, it means they are exaggerating. In other words, they are taking a minor issue and turning it into a bigger problem than it really is.
Example: I couldn’t remember the exact date that I met my wife, and she got angry at me over it. I’ll tell ya, she made a mountain out of a molehill. Oh well, at least I got the year right.
Synonyms / Related Phrases: blown out of proportion, exaggerate, overreact, spread on thick
The Origin Of ‘Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill’
Moles are adorable. I wonder if the originator of this phrase liked them… hmm. Anyways, the origin of the saying “making a mountain out of a molehill” is unclear, but what is known is that it’s over 350 years old. It is found as early as the year 1660 in a lexicon book by James Howell. This book contains many proverbs from different languages and there’s a part from it that reads:
“Making mountains of molehill.”
Of note, Wikipedia states that the saying was used in a book published in 1548 called “The first tome or volume of the Paraphrase of Erasmus vpon the newe testamente” translated in part by Nicholas Udall:
The Sophistes of Grece coulde through their copiousness make an Elephant of a flye, and a mountaine of a mollehill.
However, I was not able to find the quote listed above when I searched through the book myself. Regardless, if it does indeed make an appearance in that year, it would mean the phrase is at least over 470 years old!
This phrase highlights how certain things are blown out of proportion. Basically, a person overreacts by turning a smaller issue, represented by the molehill in the idiom, into a bigger one. For example, what if someone dropped their ice-cream by accident? It’s not really a big deal. But what if made it into one by overreacting, perhaps throwing a fit? Well, then they effectively made a mountain out of a molehill, as the saying goes.
- Deacon was looking forward to making stuffed green peppers for dinner, but when he went to grab the ingredients from the fridge, they were missing. He got frustrated and began making a mountain out of a molehill.
Note: If you’re looking for more phrases to read about, we have a list on here containing hundreds of them. You can learn their meaning, origin, and other useful information. To access our phrases list, simply tap the menu at the top.