Batting An Eyelash: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
October 21, 2023

"Batting an eyelash" refers to the slight movement or fluttering of the eyelids, which can indicate a subtle emotional reaction like surprise, annoyance, or interest. However, it's frequently paired with negative adverbs or negations, emphasizing the lack of any emotional reaction. When someone says a person "didn't bat an eyelash," they highlight that the individual showed no hint of emotion or response to a situation.

In short:

  • It refers to displaying a tiny hint of emotion.
  • Often, it indicates a lack of visible reaction or concern to something surprising or noteworthy.

What Does "Batting an Eyelash" Mean?

The phrase "batting an eyelash" centers on showing a subtle emotional response. It's like when something happens, and you react with a quick flutter of your eyelashes, indicating a brief moment of surprise, happiness, or any other emotion. When someone doesn't "bat an eyelash," they remain calm and unflustered.

Let's dig into its main meanings and how it's commonly used:

  • "Batting an eyelash" describes a quick, often unnoticed, emotional reaction.
  • It's frequently used in contexts where someone doesn't react as expected. For example, when hearing shocking news without showing surprise, one might say, "She didn't bat an eyelash."
  • The phrase paints a picture of a subtle, almost invisible response, emphasizing how slight or non-existent the reaction is.
  • In daily conversation, you might hear, "Even when he hit rock bottom, he never batted an eyelash," highlighting the person's calm demeanor.
  • It contrasts with more noticeable reactions, like gasping, shouting, or showing clear signs of surprise or other emotions.

Where Does "Batting an Eyelash" Come From?

The expression "batting an eyelash" comes from the natural, often involuntary action of fluttering one's eyelashes, especially when surprised or startled. The phrase took on a metaphorical sense, pointing to the idea of showing a brief and subtle emotional response. It's a way of capturing those tiny reactions that sometimes go unnoticed but can reveal a lot about what a person is feeling.

Historical Example

"Constance's my cousin now- and she stands it without batting an eyelash. She's about the cream of the earth, Johnny!"

- "Five Thousand An Hour" by George Randolph Chester, 1912

10 Examples of "Batting an Eyelash" in Sentences

To give you a clearer idea about when to use this idiom, let's delve into some examples from different situations:

  • Without batting an eyelash, she learned about her adoptive parents.
  • Even after hearing the shocking news, he didn't bat an eyelash, showcasing his calm demeanor.
  • He can write for international publications without batting an eyelash.
  • Despite the sudden loud noise, the guard didn't bat an eyelash, a sign of his intense focus.
  • Lo and behold, without batting an eyelash, she recognized the disguised celebrity in the crowd.
  • They didn't bat an eyelash when she arrived late, acting as if everything was normal.
  • They decided to burn boats and pursue their dreams, never batting an eyelash.
  • When she announced her sudden decision to move abroad, not many batted an eyelash due to her unpredictable nature.
  • On a lighter note, he fixed the computer system without batting an eyelash.
  • Even during the most trying times, he never batted an eyelash.

Examples of "Batting an Eyelash" in Pop Culture

This phrase often pops up in popular culture, primarily showcasing an absence of noticeable reaction or hint of emotion.

Let's see some instances:

  • J. D. Salinger, in his book Franny and Zooey, wrote: "I swear to you, I could murder them both without even batting an eyelash. The great teachers. The great emancipators. My God. I can't even sit down to lunch with a man anymore and hold up my end of a decent conversation."
  • The book An Unexpected Gentleman states, "If she could demand a price for herself without batting an eyelash, then she ought to be able to reference the marriage bed without tripping over her own tongue. She blew out a short breath and tried again. “A marriage is not a marriage..."
  • In Finding a Break in the Clouds: A Gentle Guide and Companion, the following quote is found: "This is my city now! Be gone!” screamed the warlord. But the monk did not move. “Have you no idea that you are looking at a man who will slice you in two with this sword without batting an eyelash?” he threatened, raising his sword."
  • Barbie Smith wrote in her novel Bedsores and Butterflies: "Without batting an eyelash, my mom said, “Throw it in the trash.” Then the trash was taken out and burned. You can't imagine the psychological damage this inflicted upon me!"
  • The song The Fact by Fjer contains the lyrics: "Isn't it an achievement / Going five years / Without batting an eyelash at you?"
  • The Rural Alberta Advantage in the song Barnes’ Yard from the album Departing has the lyrics: "Your mother's in the kitchen / her batting eyelash / She would never want to be the one to despise."

Other/Different Ways to Say "Batting an Eyelash"

Various other expressions convey a similar meaning to "batting an eyelash."

Here are some alternatives:

  • Not flinching
  • Showing no reaction
  • Remaining unfazed
  • Keeping a poker face
  • Staying stoic
  • Not giving it away
  • Remaining impassive
  • Not showing a hint of emotion
  • Not blinking an eye
  • Keeping one's cool

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Batting an Eyelash":

  • What does "batting an eyelash" mean?

"Batting an eyelash" means not showing any reaction, usually to something unexpected or shocking. It emphasizes a lack of visible emotion or surprise.

  • How can I use "batting an eyelash" in a sentence?

You can use it in situations where someone doesn't react or show surprise. For example: "You can't trick him into making mistakes; he does his work without batting an eyelash."

  • Is "batting an eyelash" related to physical movement?

While the phrase derives from the literal act of batting or fluttering one's eyelashes, in this idiomatic sense, it usually means the opposite – not reacting or showing emotion.

  • Is the phrase used to describe both men and women?

Yes, while "batting an eyelash" might sound feminine due to the reference to eyelashes, it's used universally to describe anyone who doesn't show a reaction.

  • Does it only refer to negative or shocking situations?

No, "batting an eyelash" can be used in various contexts, whether positive, negative, or neutral. It's about the lack of reaction rather than the situation itself.

  • Can you "bat an eyelash" out of happiness?

Traditionally, the phrase is used to describe a lack of reaction. However, in casual contexts, someone might playfully use it to mean being overwhelmed or surprised by happiness, but it's less common.

  • How does it differ from "not blinking an eye"?

They're very similar! Both "batting an eyelash" and "not blinking an eye" highlight a non-reaction. The two can often be used interchangeably, with a slight variation in imagery.

  • Is it a modern phrase?

While its exact origins are hard to pin down, "batting an eyelash" has been in use for quite some time. It's not particularly modern but remains popular in contemporary speech.

  • Can it be used in formal contexts?

Generally, it's more casual in nature. However, depending on the context and audience, it can sometimes appear in formal writing, but with discretion.

  • Does the phrase have cultural variations?

While the idea of not showing a reaction is universal, the exact phrase "batting an eyelash" might not translate directly in every language or culture. Different cultures could have their own idioms or expressions to convey the same sentiment.

Final Thoughts About "Batting an Eyelash"

"Batting an eyelash" adds a vivid splash to conversations, highlighting someone's unflappable nature. It's a playful way of noting how certain events, which might surprise or shock most, barely register for others. Whether watching a movie, reading a book, or chatting with friends, it's fun to spot instances where characters or individuals don't "bat an eyelash," holding their ground and sailing smoothly through life's unexpected turns.

Quick insights:

  • When someone does something without "batting an eyelash," they're staying cool as a cucumber, no matter what's unfolding around them.
  • The idiom paints a picture, inviting listeners to imagine a scene where everything may be in chaos, yet one person remains undisturbed, not even flickering their eyelashes.

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