The emperor has no clothes is an idiomatic expression and a popular phrase, coming from the punchline of Hans Christian Andersen’s folktale, titled The Emperor’s New Clothes.
The Emperor’s New Clothes was published along with The Little Mermaid in 1837.
The tale tells the story of two swindlers pulling a fraud on an exhibitionistic emperor, who is obsessed with clothing and fashion by telling him and his court, that they will tailor an outfit that can only be seen by the wise.
This results in nobody admitting that the emperor is in fact naked, up until the very end of the tale, when he is displaying it publically in the streets.
The story ends with a boy suddenly shouting “the emperor has no clothes” and the whole audience bursting out in laughter.
The expression has since turned into an idiomatic phrase, said when the veil falls off of an illusion.
It was first defined on Urban Dictionary in 2005.
- Medium.com – Parable: The Emperor Has No Clothes
- BookBrowse – Why do we say The Emperor has no clothes?
- Miami Herald – Donald Trump might look like he’s fully clothed, but in reality . . .