English Idiom – Gild the Lily

Meaning – To improve something unnecessarily. To further decorate something that already looks perfect. Attempt to improve something beautiful and therefore spoil it.

The word gild means to cover something in a thin layer of gold, or decorate something so that it has a golden appearance.

If you gild (or paint) a lily you will spoil the look. The lily is already a beautiful flower and it needs no decoration.


When could you use this idiom?

  • If somebody is adding unnecessary adornments to something that looks perfect.
  • A person is trying to improve an object with natural beauty.
  • Someone is making too many changes to an already successful project.
  • “You look dench. Putting more make-up on would be like gilding the lily.”
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  • Is there an idiom like this in your country?
What is an idiom?

An idiom is a word or phrase that is not taken literally.  An idiom is an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its individual words, but has a separate meaning of its own.