Under Your Nose – Meaning, Origin

Meaning:

If something is under your nose then you’re oblivious to it even though it’s right there in front of you.

Example: Jake was trying to hook up a new game console to his television, but it wasn’t working and he couldn’t figure out what the problem was. Little did Jake know that the solution was right under his nose the whole time; the power cord was not plugged in!

(In other words, he was unaware of something that should have been obvious.)

Synonyms / Similar Phrases:
1. Right in front of you
2. You can’t miss it
3. Obvious

The Origin Of ‘Under Your Nose’

As the saying goes, it is under your nose! How long have people been using this expression? It is said this phrase dates back to at least the 1500s, but I could not find any examples of it from that time. The earliest I could find it is from the 1600s. For example, the phrase is seen in The Copie of a Letter sent from The Roaring Boyes in Elizium, from the year 1641:

Can you my worthy hosts sit and see those 

That make you weare od money in your hose, 

Under your nose triumphing?”

It is common for the word “right” to be inserted in front of this expression. The earliest I could find of ‘right under your nose’ is from the newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald, November 1856:

“‘Well, have you detected my forgery?’ said he, with the greatest coolness, ‘No,’ replied the head expert laughing, ‘for a good reason—you never sent it.’ ‘Why, there it lies right under your nose, the third to the left, and here is the original I took it from.'”

In conclusion, this expression is at least 378 years old. If it goes back to the 1500s as has been reported, then its over 400 years old.


Example Sentence(s)

You will see a pair of sentences below. The first sentence uses the phrase. The second sentence shows how to say the same thing, but without the phrase.

  • Heather searched her house from top to bottom for her car keys. She later found them in her jacket pocket; they were right under her nose.
  • Heather looked all over the house for her car keys. Soon she realized they were right in front of her the entire time in her pockets.

Here is another pair of examples.

  • My little brother asked me where the pizza cutter was. I told him it was under his nose, in the utensil drawer.
  • My brother was looking for the pizza cutter, so I told him its in an obvious location; the utensil drawer.

Tip: If you are looking for more popular sayings, well they are right under your… okay that’s enough about this phrase. Know Your Phrase has a list of sayings you can explore. All you have to do to get there is scroll to the top and pick a letter from the menu. It is that easy!


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