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fly in the ointment

an irritating factor


fly in the ointment = ein Haar in der Suppe --- GOOGLE INDEX fly in the ointment: approximately 500,000 Google hits



A study found that companies in general are increasingly leveraging the cloud to deliver business-critical applications. However, there’s A FLY IN THE OINTMENT. Most companies aren’t doing it right.

(ABA Banking Journal)

For some housing-market analysts there's a big FLY IN THE OINTMENT that could spoil the housing market recovery for us all: rising interest rates.

(Time magazine)

Did you

fly in the ointment

- a minor irritation that spoils the success or enjoyment of something

(Oxford Dictionaries)

The Bible is a popular source of English idioms. According to linguist David Crystal, there are around 250 expressions that can be traced to the world’s most widely read book (as opposed to about 100 expressions from Shakespeare, which is still nothing to sneeze at).

One of these phrases is "a fly in the ointment," which is from Ecclesiastes 10:1: "Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour." Ointment referred to an oil that was rubbed on someone when conferring a divine or holy office.

The passage goes on to explain that it only takes a small folly to ruin the reputation of a wise and honourable person. This figurative sense was eventually expanded to refer to any small irritation that spoils an otherwise pleasant, enjoyable or successful situation.

Other commonly used expressions from the Bible include:

- the blind leading the blind (Matthew 15:13 - And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch) = incompetent people who lead similarly incapable people.

- feet of clay (Daniel 2:33 - This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, his legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.) = a flaw in something great.


catch, drawback, hitch, snag, flaw, shortcoming, obstacle

SMUGGLE OWAD into today's conversation

"The only fly in the ointment was that we had to move the party indoors after it started to rain."

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