Apple of my eye
The phrase apple of my eye refers to something or someone that one cherishes above all others.
The Bible references below (from the King James Version, translated in 1611) contain the English idiom "apple of my eye." However the Hebrew literally says, "little man of the eye." The Hebrew idiom also refers to the pupil, and has the same meaning, but does not parallel the English use of "apple."
The earliest appearance of the word is found in King Aelfred's writing in ninth century. Before it means "favorite," it was literally meaning "aperture at the center of the human eye" which means the pupil.
Shakespeare also used it in the 1590s when he wrote A Midsummer Night's Dream:
"Flower of this purple dye, / Hit with Cupid's archery, / Sink in apple of his eye".
It also appears in the King James Bible Translation from 1611:
He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.
in the Book of Psalms 17:8
Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings
in Proverbs 7:2
Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye.
Lamentations 2: 18
Their heart cried unto the Lord, O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears run down like a river day and night: give thyself no rest; let not the apple of thine eye cease.
as well as in Zechariah 2:8
For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.
The original Hebrew for this idiom, in all but Zechariah 2:8, was 'iyshown 'ayin (אישון עין), and can be literally translated as "Little Man of the Eye." This is a reference to the tiny reflection of yourself that you can see in other people's pupils. Other KJV translations of the word 'iyshown include dark and obscure, as a reference to the darkness of the pupil.
This Hebrew idiom is surprisingly close to the Latin version, pupilla, which means a little doll, and is a diminutive form of pupus, boy, or pupa, girl (the source also for our other sense of pupil to mean a schoolchild.) It was applied to the dark central portion of the eye within the iris because of the tiny image of oneself, like a puppet or marionette, that one can see when looking into another person's eye.
In Zechariah 2:8, the Hebrew phrase used is bava 'ayin (בבה עין). The meaning of bava is disputed. It may mean "apple"; and if so, the phrase used in Zechariah 2:8 literally refers to the "apple of the eye." However, it appears that most Hebrew scholars think this Hebrew phrase communicated the meaning conveyed by the English word, "eyeball" (E.g., see The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, vol. 1, p. 107).
"Poor Richard was to me as an eldest son, the apple of my eye."
In popular culture
- In 1973 British pop band Badfinger released a single titled "Apple of My Eye" (written by Pete Ham) as a reference to Apple Records, the label which had been producing their albums, but that now they were leaving for Warner Bros. Records.
- Stevie Wonder also used the phrase in the third line of the lyrics to his song, "You Are The Sunshine of My Life."
- "The meanings and origins of sayings and phrases". Phrases.org.uk. Retrieved October 17, 2012.
- "Apple of My Eye". IdiomSite.com. Retrieved October 17, 2012.
- "Apple of one’s eye". WorldWideWords.org. Retrieved October 17, 2012.
- Gregory I. Pope (January 1, 1999). King Alfred's West-Saxon Version of Gregory's Pastoral Care. Elibron.com. p. 68. ISBN 978-1-4021-9636-2. Retrieved October 17, 2012.
- Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 73, 1942[dead link]