Where does the expression “to take under one’s wings” come from and What does it mean?

“0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”

This passage from Matthew xxiii, 37, was the source of the expression “to take under one’s wings”.

The metaphorical protection like that of a mother bird over her young appears also in Psalms lxiii, 7, “Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.”

However, some of us may be more familiar with the saying from the lines of the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, The Mikado, sung by Ko-Ko:
The flowers that bloom in the spring, Tra la,
Have nothing to do with the case.
I’ve got to take under my wing, Tra la,
A most unattractive old thing, Tra la,
With a caricature of a face.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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