curry favor

idiomatic phrase

: to seek to gain favor by flattery or attention
… eager to curry favor with superiors by reporting any trivial transgression.Robert Wallace and H. Keith Meltony
Instead of rolling back environmental regulations to curry favor with corporate interests, California has passed the toughest green laws in the nation …Alexander Nazaryan

Word History


Note: The idiom curry favor is an alteration by folk etymology of curry favell, Middle English core favele, currey favel "to use insincere flattery to gain personal advantage," literally, "to curry the fallow-colored horse," a translation of Middle French estriller/torchier Fauvel "to use trickery, deceive," literally, "to curry/clean Fauvel" ("the fallow one," as a name for a horse). Old & Middle French falve, fauve "brownish-yellow, light brown (of an animal's coat)" and its derivatives have the additional meaning "false, hypocritical," probably in part due to the similarity in sound to faux "false"; hence la fauve asnele (ca. 1170) "hypocrisy, falsehood" (literally, "the fallow ass"), fauvoier (13th century) "to deceive," Old Occitan falveta "art of beguiling." Fauvel and Fauvain as horse's names are the focus of various idioms, as estriller Fauvel "to curry Fauvel," that denote duplicitous behavior. In the satirical French poem, Roman de Fauvel, composed ca. 1310-16, a horse or donkey named Fauvel becomes king by the grace of Fortuna ("Lady Fortune") and, having taken possession of the palace stable, is curried and cleaned by the hypocritical nobility and clergy of the realm.

First Known Use

1557, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of curry favor was in 1557

Dictionary Entries Near curry favor

Cite this Entry

“Curry favor.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Jan. 2023.

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