top of page

Idiom: Away with the Fairies

Defining the phrase "away with the fairies"

In Celtic folklore, both in Scots and Irish Gaelic, fairies often robed people of their wits (oh my!). The phrase has a variety of meanings, however. It can mean something playful like lost in thought, distracted, or daydreaming, something innocuous like being deeply asleep, or something a more sinister like being mad enough for the asylum or not right in the head.

The first appearance is from a 1636 Scottish poem, although the wording differs: “dance with the fairies.”

Variations were used throughout the Georgian era. In the late 19th century, it was used to explain the events of a murder. We don’t see the exact wording of “away with the fairies” until the early 20th century (1907, to be exact), when the phrase was, surprisingly, used in not one but two court cases in Ireland during the first decade of the 20th century. Popularity rose to prominence in the late 20th century and carries on today, especially in Ireland. It has appeared in a plethora of poems and stories and is used over much of the British Isles.

This is a phrase used by our heroine, Isobel, in A Spark of Romance. Her usage would not have been unusual for the era, but if we were being technically accurate, she probably would have opted more for a “dances with the fairies” or “carried off by fairies” or similar wording, as they were more popularly used at the time. I think, though, Isobel’s use is just perfect for her!

bottom of page