Have you seen the phrase ‘my kingdom for a horse’ somewhere on the internet or in popular media and would like to know what it means? Someone who says ‘my kingdom for a horse’ is referencing a quote in the famous Shakespeare play Richard III. This post unpacks the meaning and use of this common figurative saying.
The phrase ‘my kingdom for a horse’ is used to mean that something as large as a kingdom can be easily sacrified for something as small as a horse if the need to becomes great enough.
The saying is figurative, and only used to mean that someone would easily give up something valuable in order to have something else if they were desperate enough at the time.
The phrase can be used to self-reference by implying ‘[I would give] my kingdom for a horse’, or the phrase can be said to someone else as ‘[you would give] your kingdom for a horse.’
The phrase can be used to point out the value of things at specific times, for example in times of serious desperation. The phrase can also be used to mean that someone should hang on to certain things because they might become important when it is least expected.
The phrase can draw some comparisons with the Bible’s tale of lentil soup for inheritance. Much like the original story implies in Richard III, one thing is sacrified for another out of need – while what is being sacrified is far more valuable, much like the kingdom and the horse.
Sometimes the phrase is said as a comparison to point out the value of something versus another thing, and to say that the thing of lesser value might become valuable later in desperate times.
The phrase is used with the word “kingdom” as a collective, and use of the term with the word “kingdoms” is rare.
“He said he didn’t want the soup, and I reminded him that he could give up his kingdom for a horse. He loved trying the soup, by the way.”
“Don’t use your last five bucks now when you might need it later. If you do, it’s as good as your kingdom for a horse. ”
“He wanted to sell his shares, but I told him that’s as good as his kingdom for a horse.”
“If you want to be completely sure that it’s not your kingdom for a horse, then you should hold on to the change jar until you’re absolutely in trouble.”
The origin of the phrase ‘my kingdom for a horse’ originates from Shakespeare’s Richard III, where the eponymous King loses his horse on the battlefield (and as a result, later loses his entire kingdom as a result of the battle).
Would he have lost the kingdom if he had not lost the horse, and thus something he needed at that point in time?
At the right moment, the horse would have been more important than the kingdom itself.
After its use in Richard III, the term is likely to have evolved into common use through other writers who often used Shakespeare as an inspiration. Thanks to the wide translation of Shakespeare, the term spread to select other languages in time.
Popular culture (and social media) partially contributed to the further rise of the term, and its eventual online use that sees the occasional mention of the term.
Phrases Similar to My Kingdom For A Horse
Phrases Opposite to My Kingdom For A Horse
What is the Correct Saying?
- [I would give] my kingdom for a horse
- My kingdom for a horse
Ways People May Say My Kingdom For A Horse Incorrectly
Someone who does not understand the meaning of the phrase can misinterpret its use, or use it in the wrong context.
The phrase is most often used as ‘my kingdom for a horse’ and the term ‘kingdoms’ is never used.
Acceptable Ways to Phrase My Kingdom For A Horse
The correct way to phrase ‘my kingdom for a horse’ is to use the term verbatim, to refer to the heightened value of something in a crises (as opposed to something of high value when you do not need it).
The phrase can be changed to ‘your kingdom for a horse’ when referring to someone else.