Add insult to injury

Add insult to injury

  • to upset someone and then to deliver a second insult, to make an already bad situation worse by a second insulting act or remark

Some authorities claim a very ancient origin for this phrase, tracing it back to a book of fables by the Roman writer Phaedrus from about 25 BC. The fable in question is The Bald Man and the Fly in which a man attempts to squash an insect which has just stung him on his bald patch by delivering a smart smack. The fly escapes the blow and mocks him for wanting to avenge the bite of a tiny insect with death. To the injury of the sting he has only succeeded in adding the insult of the self-inflicted blow.

Other authorities, however, point out that in past centuries, while 'injury' certainly meant physical hurt, it could also equally well apply to wounded feelings and was synonymous with 'insult'. French injure (from the same Latin origin iniuria) has today the predominant sense of 'insult, abuse'. The effect is therefore to intensify the original injury by adding 'insult to insult'.

Example Sentences

And now insult was added to injury. The Queen of the French wrote her a formal letter, calmly announcing, as a family event in which she was sure Victoria would be interested, the marriage of her son, Montpensier. LYTTON STRACHEY, Queen Victoria, 1921.

In an insolent proclamation from Lausanne General Rapp added insult to injury by telling the heirs o f a thousand years of ordered liberty that their history showed they could not settle their affairs without the intervention of France. SIR ARTHUR BRYANT, Years of Victory, 1944.


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