Under Your Nose – Meaning, Origin


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 game console to his TV, but it wasn’t working. He couldn’t figure out what the problem was and so he was on the verge of returning it. Little did Jake know, the problem 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 very obvious.

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

Origin Of ‘Under Your Nose’

As the saying goes, it’s under your nose! So how long have people been using this expression? It’s said that it 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 found 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?”

What about the alternative form that people use (where the word “right” is inserted in front)? The earliest I could find the form “right under your nose” is from a newspaper named 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 and its been said, then that would mean its over 400 years old.

Example Sentence(s)

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

  • Heather searched her house from top to bottom trying to find her car keys. She later noticed that they were in her pocket the whole time, right under her nose.
  • Heather looked all over the house for her car keys. She soon realized that they were right in front of her, in her back pocket.

Here’s 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 didn’t know where the pizza cutter was at. So I said its location was fairly obvious, it was in the drawer with all the utensils.

Note: Know Your Phrase has a list of popular sayings, with their meaning and origin, so check that out by using the menu at the top. Just pick a letter.

On an unrelated note, sometimes the origins for phrases are not clear. In such cases, I try to provide the plausible theories that touch on how a phrase may have originated. If no theories are there listed, there is usually a quote of the expression. These quotes are the oldest appearance of the phrase in print (or around there). Their purpose is to give you (the person reading) an idea on how old the expression is.

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