Grin like a Cheshire Cat – English Idiom – Online English Lessons

To grin like a Cheshire cat means to smile very broadly, from ear to ear.

Example of use:

Mr McCloud was very happy when he passed his driving test: he had a grin like a Cheshire cat.

The phrase was made popular by the English Victorian humorist and children’s author, Lewis Carroll, in his book  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), with John Tenniel’s illustrations of the fictional Cheshire Cat.

‘Please would you tell me,’ said Alice, a little timidly, for she was not quite sure whether it was good manners for her to speak first, ‘why your cat grins like that?’

‘It’s a Cheshire cat,’ said the Duchess, ‘and that’s why.” Lewis Carroll

It’s not clear where the phrase ‘grin like a Cheshire cat’ originally comes from, but there are various suggestions, including:

  • cats living in Chester on the River Dee in England, would catch mice and rats leaving the ships carrying Cheshire cheese to London – and from this we can infer they were very happy cats, hence the Cheshire Cat grin!
  • Cheshire cheese was formerly made in moulds resembling a grinning cat

Cheshire is a county in North-West England, UK.  It is famous for its cheese, and salt production. Salt has been produced in Cheshire for over 2,000 years and it is the only place in Britain where it is still produced on a large scale. Have a look at the Northwich Salt Museum web site for more information.

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