The Origins of the Rose-Colored Glasses Idiom

Clouds at sunset with a red tint.
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We all know that seeing something through rose-colored glasses means you see it as better than it really is, but did you ever wonder where this idiom originated?

Finding the Origin

The origin of this idiom is difficult to find. Apparently, nobody who writes about rose-colored glasses has bothered to actually look through them. Once you do, the origin is obvious. One of the best descriptions is over on Wise Geek, where they go through several, optimism-focused theories ranging from the symbolism of roses and rose gardens to the Victorians to map-makers' glasses to gazing through the bottom of a wine glass.

There are also references to the book Tom Brown at Oxford by Thomas Hughes and written in 1861, but it's unclear if this is the first use of the term.

Rose Colored Glasses and Chickens

A more curious suggestion is that the term comes from the use of goggles on chickens to keep them from pecking feathers off each other. An article about chicken eyeglasses at states that "rose-colored lenses as the coloring is thought to prevent a chicken wearing them from recognizing blood on other chickens, which may increase the tendency for abnormal injurious behavior. They were mass-produced and sold throughout the United States as early as the beginning of the 20th century."

This seems like an odd association of the term since rose-colored glasses accentuate reds unless chickens see red differently than humans. Regardless, it may be contrary to our usage of the idiom.

No matter what the origin of the idiom is, seeing the world through rose-colored glasses really does make the world a better place. The reds are incredibly red, the greens lush, the blues truly electric. Willy Wonka, eat your heart out.

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Your Citation
Peterson, Deb. "The Origins of the Rose-Colored Glasses Idiom." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Peterson, Deb. (2020, August 27). The Origins of the Rose-Colored Glasses Idiom. Retrieved from Peterson, Deb. "The Origins of the Rose-Colored Glasses Idiom." ThoughtCo. (accessed October 19, 2021).