Wax Poetic – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Do you want to tell someone to go on with their philosophical argument? If so, you could ask them to “wax poetic” about the subject. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.

Meaning

The expression “wax poetic” means that you’re speaking poetically about things in your life, current events, or topics where you feel you have knowledge about the subject of the discussion. For instance, you could wax poetic about the days of your youth or about how you spent years studying philosophical works to earn your doctorate.

Waking poetic about something can have a positive or negative connotation. For instance, the students could experience boredom when their professors wax poetic about old education standards. Or women might feel a more emotional connection to their partners when they wax poetic about how much they love them.

Example Usage

“Gosh, do we have to sit here and listen to Billy wax poetic about how he changed his life by turning to a vegan lifestyle?”

“We would sit there for hours and wax poetic about the state of the world and civilization. It was an intelligent and interesting conversation.”

“The politician didn’t get it. They just took to the podium to wax poetic about how great their administration is and the benefits they supposedly bring to the public.”

“Let’s listen to this guy wax poetic about the glory days of the 1960s.”

Origin

The origin of the saying “wax poetic” comes from the 1300s. Many language experts believe it has a connection to the waxing phase of the moon cycle. The Oxford English Dictionary states that the use of the phrase in explaining the waxing phase of the moon traces back to 970.

When the moon waxes, it gains visible size each night until it reaches totality as a “full moon.” The heavenly body then enters the “waning” phase.

The saying “wax poetic” directly originates from the saying “wax eloquent,” used in the early 19th century. “Wax eloquent” describes an individual that’s expansive and expressive in their speech. It appears in writing for the first time in 1824, in the writings “Bracebridge Hall, a collection of essays and literary sketches by Washington Irving.”

“The whole country is covered with manufacturing towns… a region of fire; reeking with coal-pits, and furnaces, and smelting-houses, vomiting forth flames and smoke. The squire is apt to wax eloquent on such themes.”

Waxing poetic” was the progression of “waxing eloquent.” The first example of the saying in print comes from Sir Henry Morton Stanley in 1872, in his work, “How I Found Livingstone.”

“One could almost wax poetic, but we will keep such ambitious ideas for a future day.”

Phrases Similar to Wax Poetic

  • Wav lyrical.
  • Reminisce.
  • Speak excitedly.

Phrases Opposite to Wax Poetic

  • Being blunt.
  • Dull speech.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Wax poetic.
  • Waxing poetic.

Ways People May Say Wax Poetic Incorrectly

The saying has nothing to do with wax and little to do with poetry. Using the phrase to describe poetry is incorrect. Using the expression to describe wax makers is also the incorrect use of the saying.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Wax Poetic

You can use the saying “wax poetic” when referring to yourself or others. It suits professional and social use, but it’s more common in social speech. If you’re droning on about nostalgic points in your life or trying to make enthusiastic points on a topic, people could accuse you of waxing poetic on the subject. For instance, if you recall your salad days of youth, you wax poetic about the good times you had as a child and how you miss them.

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