A Sight for Sore Eyes

Meaning of “A Sight for Sore Eyes”

The phrase “a sight for sore eyes” is a simple way of saying that one feels glad after seeing a friend or a loved one after a long time. It is an idiom and an expression of enthusiasm. The phrase can also be applied to describe a scenic view such as a sunrise or a sunset.

Origin of “A Sight for Sore Eyes”

The phrase “A Sight for Sore Eyes” is stated to have appeared in A Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation by Jonathan Swift. The book was published in 1738, and the idiomatic phrase appeared in the book as “The sight of you is good for sore eyes.” The phrase then reappeared in New Monthly Magazine, published in 1826. William Hazlitt is stated to have used it about Garrick. The sentence is as follows: “Garrick’s name was proposed on condition he should act in tragedy and comedy… What a sight for sore eyes that would be!”

Examples in Literature

Example #1

A Sight for Sore Eyes by Tom Waits

“A sight for sore eyes, it’s a long time no see
Workin’ hard hardly workin’, hey man, you know me
Water under the bridge, did you see my new car?
Well, it’s bought and it’s payed for, parked outside of the bar

And hey barkeep, what’s keepin’ you, keep pourin’ drinks
For all these palookas, hey, you know what I thinks
That we toast to the old days and DiMaggio too
And old Drysdale and Mantle, Whitey Ford and to you

The above song was released in 1977. This phrase is used in the opening verse of the song when the narrator starts speaking to a person at the bar. In the next stanzas, the narrator brags about his achievements and recalls his past. Actually, the song is all about the narrator’s past, as he remembers all his friends who used to be a sight for his sore eyes. Now he is feeling lonely and desperate. His present is dark and gloomy as he is alone in the bar and no one is there to listen to him.

Example #2

A Sight for Sore Eyes by Ruth Rendell

A Sight for Sore Eyes is a crime novel published in 1999. The story of this book revolves around two uncannily beautiful teenagers, Teddy and Francine. Both characters share bizarre lives. Teddy is from a loveless family and a sociopath. He ignores the fact that the other people exist around. On the other hand, Francine is an overprotected child. She is overprotected by her obsessive stepmother and thinks otherwise. Tough Teddy thinks people are unkind and ugly, yet he finds a sympathetic side of himself when he sees Francine. The phrase has been used as a metaphor for Francine. Teddy’s personality is altered in the presence of Francine. To him, Francine is a personification of beauty who takes away the pain from his damaged soul.

Example #3

Valley of Wild Horses by Zane Grey

“Ah-huh! Sounds like music to me,” replied Smith, growing slow and cool. He eyed Pan up and down, walked round him twice. Then he suddenly burst out, “Wal, you long-legged strappin’ son of a gun! If sight of you ain’t good for sore eyes! … Ah-huh! Look where he packs that gun!”

The author Zane Grey describes the west American landscapes and their noticeable impacts on the main character, Panhandle. A Texan and gunfighter cowboy, Pan is the center of the story having two dominating emotions; love and hatred. This extract is from a conversation between Pan and his father, Bill. After years of range riding, Pan finds his father in the shop. To his father’s amazement, Pan is alive. He expresses delight by using the phrase.

Example #4

A Sight for Sore Eyes directed by Shane Stanley  

This is a short film of 2005 written and directed by Shane Stanley. The plot of the film is simple. It is about an eye-opener when the egoistic and over-confident executive reunites with his high school love, Ammi. Her sightlessness is a game-changing aspect for the protagonist. He rethinks about his past flirtatious relationships. However, seeing his high school crush, the blind girl, he is delighted. He eventually changes his attitude. Hence, the title is suitable for the story.

Examples in Sentences

Example #1: “My industrious daughter is a pleasant sight for my sore eyes. She always fills me with pride.”

Example #2: “The charming English landscapes are always lush green with yellow flower patches. They just make your heart delightful and are a sight for sore eyes.”

Example #3: “As soon as mother arrived with freshly baked pancakes. It was a sight for sore eyes for Jane and Jenny.”

Example #4: “The audience were waiting for their favorite celebrity for an entire day. As soon as he arrived, it was a sight for sore eyes.”

Example #5: “When Jason finished his last mission space and returned home, his family threw a party to welcome him. Meeting his family was a sight for his sore eyes.