Fawn Over: Definition, Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
May 14, 2023

The idiom "fawn over" means to excessively flatter or show affection towards someone, often to gain favor. People use it to describe someone's behavior when they are trying to impress or win the approval of another person.

In short:

"Fawn over" is used to describe excessive flattery or affection shown towards someone, often with an ulterior motive.

What Does "Fawn Over" Mean?

The phrase "Fawn over" refers to the act of excessively flattering or showing affection towards someone, usually to gain favor or approval. It suggests an over-the-top, often insincere, display of admiration.

  • The term "fawn" is associated with servile or submissive behavior, similar to a young deer (also called a fawn).
  • "Over" in this context means excessive or too much.

Where Does "Fawn Over" Come From?

The phrase's origin is unclear but is believed to have originated in the 19th century. The word “fawn” comes from the Old English adjective fægen or fagan, meaning “glad,” by way of Old English fagnian, meaning “to rejoice.” In this phrase, “fawn” acts as a verb meaning “to court favor by a cringing or flattering manner.”

Historical Example

"I came here to perform my duty to my old general, not to flatter and fawn over the new Emperor!"

- Englishmen in India, William Dimond, 1840

10 Examples of "Fawn Over" in Sentences

Here are some examples of how "fawn over" might be used in various contexts:

  • She was always fawning over the professor in hopes of getting a better grade.
  • It was clear that he was fawning over his boss to secure the promotion.
  • I wish you safe travels and hope you won't have to deal with obsessed fans fawning over you.
  • The artist's fans fawned over his latest painting.
  • Her friends couldn't help but fawn over her incredible glow-up.
  • She knows getting with someone famous would boost her social status, so she couldn't help but fawn over him.
  • The sales assistant fawned over the potential client.
  • The children fawned over the new puppy.
  • People have a tendency to either fawn over their candidates or get riled up about those they don't support.
  • She didn't want a partner who would fawn over her; she wanted someone who would treat her as an equal.

Examples of "Fawn Over" in Pop Culture

You may encounter the phrase in various aspects of pop culture, from movies and TV shows to books and music.

Some notable examples include:

  • "It makes her sad as she has to watch Kate fawn over the new guy she is dating" is a quote from the 2013 book "For Me, It's Not Over."
  • A line in the crime drama series "Elementary" where Sherlock Holmes says, "I am an obsequious American history major whose been fawning over his collection."
  • A line in the comedy series "Just Shoot Me!" where Jack Gallo tells Dennis Finch, "I can't stand interns. They're always fawning over you. I hate fawning."

Other/Different Ways to Say "Fawn Over"

There are many other ways to describe someone excessively flattering or showing affection.

Here are a few alternatives to "fawn over":

  • Butter up
  • Suck up to
  • Brown-nose
  • Grovel to

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Fawn Over"

  • What does "Fawn over" mean?

"Fawn over" means to excessively flatter or show affection towards someone, often to gain favor or approval.

  • Where does the phrase "Fawn over" come from?

The term "fawn" comes from Old English "fagnian", which means to rejoice or be glad. It later evolved to describe a dog's behavior of wagging its tail to show affection or submission, similar to a young deer's behavior.

  • Is it okay to use the phrase in a formal setting?

Yes, the phrase "fawn over" can be used in both formal and informal contexts. However, it's important to note that it often carries a negative connotation of insincerity or manipulation.

  • Is "Fawn over" popular in other English-speaking countries?

"Fawn over" is used in many English-speaking countries, including the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as the US.

  • Is it possible to use it in a more positive context?

Although "fawn over" typically has a negative connotation, it can be used positively to describe genuine affection, as in: "On a side note, the grandparents fawned over their grandchild, whom they hadn't seen for a long time."

  • Is "fawn over" appropriate for all age groups?

Yes, "fawn over" can be understood and used by people of all ages, though the underlying concept of insincere flattery might be complex for younger children.

  • Are there synonyms for "fawn over"?

Yes, similar phrases include "butter up", "suck up to", "brown-nose", and "grovel to".

  • Can one use the phrase in writing?

Yes, "fawn over" can be effectively used in both formal and informal writing, such as in novels, articles, emails, or text messages.

  • Does "Fawn over" have a negative connotation?

Yes, "fawn over" often has a negative connotation as it suggests excessive or insincere flattery, often for personal gain.

  • How can I use "fawn over" in a sentence?

For example, you could say, "At the party, John couldn't help but fawn over the popular singer, hoping to receive an autograph or a photo."  "I refuse to fawn over him just because he's the boss."

Final Thoughts about "Fawn Over"

"Fawn over" is a phrase indicating excessive flattery or affection towards someone, often with the intention of gaining their favor or approval. This idiom has its roots in Old English and is a testament to the richness and diversity of the English language.

  • The term "fawn" originates from an Old English word for rejoicing.
  • It has a negative connotation suggesting insincerity or manipulation.
  • The phrase is known across English-speaking countries and in various forms of media.

Whether it's in a work of literature, a TV show, or a casual conversation, "fawn over" offers a colorful way to describe the dynamics of flattery and power.

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