The meaning behind the expression Gilding the lily is to change or to put unnecessary ornamentation to an already perfect thing.
It is a common misquotation from Shakespeare’s King John. He didn’t coin to term, but he came close to it in 1595.
The quote from the famous play is actually going like “to paint the lilly” instead of “Gilding the lilly”.
The exact words from the history of King John reads: “To gild refined gold, to paint the lily / To throw a perfume on the violet…. / Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.”
However, the expression is still attributed to him.
There are many who mock this expression as a misquote, and from time to time the exact words written by Shakespeare appear instead of “Gilding the lily”.
Even Though the wording of the expression is incorrect, “Gilding the lily” established, and it holds the true spirit just like the original one.
The phrase is pretty popular nowadays. Multiple online dictionaries wrote about its definition, such as Cambridge Dictionary, Urban Dictionary, and it was the word of the day on April 4th, 2008 on Merriam-Webster.
- Urban Dictionary – Gilding the Lily