There's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip

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There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip is an old English proverb. It implies that even when the outcome of an event seems certain, things can still go wrong.

A Latin form is found in Erasmus's "Adagia," I.iv.1 ("Multa cadunt inter calicem supremaque labra") which appears to derive from an epigram by Palladas in The Greek Anthology (X, 32).

The proverb appears to derive from a Greek legend in which Ancaeus, one of the Argonauts, returns home to his winery. A local soothsayer had previously predicted the he would die before he tasted another drop of his wine, thus the Argonaut calls the soothsayer and toasts him for the Argonaut had survived his journey. The soothsayer replies to the toast with a phrase corresponding to the English proverb. As he finishes his toast, the Argonaut raises a cup filled with wine to his lips but is called away to hunt a wild boar before he could take a sip. The Argonaut is killed hunting the boar.[1]

The first occurrence of the proverb in English, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is in Thackeray's Pendennis, 1850.[2]

In the popular 1988 Movie "Young Guns", actor Emilio Estevez playing "Billy the Kid" tells his band of outlaws in response to their concern of potential hanging, that if they are caught that they will most certainly get hanged, and then utters the phrase but "There's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip".

In an early episode of The West Wing, the character of Donna Moss (played by Janel Moloney) misquotes the expression, saying "There's many a slip 'twixt the tongue and the wrist, Josh." [3]


  1. ^ Titelman, Gregory, Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings, Random House Reference, March 5, 1996
  2. ^ Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed., Oxford University Press, USA, August 11, 2008
  3. ^