Meanings of “Derring-do”

The phrase “derring-do” means to do heroic or daring acts, or take up the courage to do something extraordinary that other people cannot do.

Origin of “Derring-do”

The phrase “derring-do” is derived from Troilus and Criseyde written by Geoffrey Chaucer. It was published in 1374. The phrase was used as “during don” with archaic spellings. Later, Edmund Spencer used it in his popular, The Faerie Queene, published in 1596 where it was used as “derring doe” though still in archaic spellings. It was Walter Scott who used it in his novel, Ivanhoe, published in 1820 where it goes in its present form as “derring-do” in the same spelling with a hyphen.

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Dragonfly by Edguy

Calling you, calling you
You always hear them speak
Derring-do, derring-do
Calling you, calling you
From a distant burning star
You wanna fly so

These lines show the singer calling somebody to say that he can hear others calling him derring-do but then the chorus enters to make him believe that he is able to fly. The phrase is repeated in the middle of these lines to make it seem as a refrain, though it is just a repetition.

Example #2

The Devil Does Most of the Talking: A Novel by Victoria White Berger

He liked to get her goat. She just laughed; ger hair was none of his business. Then Harry was back on topic number one – his father, the “jailbird.” Harry’s rendition of Dad was modestly picaresque and doubtless inaccurate. It seemed Dad was the victim of some sort of statewide sting – of criminal activity, but with a component of derring-do on Dad’s part. This was not his father’s first lock-up; Harry was discouraged about that.

In these lines, Harry is talking about his criminal father who is almost always in jail. It seems from his conversation that although he is exaggerating something about his father, it also seems that the state has decided to punish him come what may. It also seems that there is something daring about his father which is shown through this phrase.

Example #3

Beau Crusoe by Carla Kelly

He grimaced. “Mrs. P, that is Beau’s languid expression.”
“You have it all wrong, Mr. Trevenen,” she informed me, with a hint of a smile. “Someone named Beau Crusoe should appear as though he has just committed some act of derring-do. Or is it derring-did, since the act is past?”
He laughed. “Very well, I’ll discard the languid visage and try to look more … piratical?”

The novel about Mrs. P and Beau Crusoe. This parody of Robinson Crusoe shows that Mr. Trevenen is told by Mrs. P. that some person named, Beau Crusoe, has done something very daring. She calls it derring-do, a quite denotative use, but then she twists it and uses its past to demonstrate the pastness of the action. This seems just a single twist of the character and not of a linguist. Therefore, the phrase is used with its intended meaning.

Example #4

Luck Of The Devil by Elizabeth Keys

“More adventures in derring-do for your Green Dragon?” Teresa nodded. She never failed to report the latest adventures from her hero, always with breathless belief that each detail was true. Maura settled herself comfortably against the cushions anticipating just the sort of distraction she had hoped for when she’d invited her maid to join her.

In this passage, Maura is asking Teresa about the derring-do of her Green Dragon as she is making herself comfortable. This phrase seems to be used as a denotation as it shows its literal meanings used here with reference to Green Dragon.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “Most of the derring-do have proved to be quite hollow from inside, especially the social media posts, and not what they show to the public.”

Example #2: “Doing your homework is not derring-do. It such a simple task and above all, it is your duty to complete it.”

Example #3: “I have often thought that even killing a lion does not seem to be derring-do in this region. These people are habitual of performing such acts as to kill some animal or even somebody – they go to any extent in showing their derring-do.”

Example #4: “After coming to the point that Joe can derring-do anywhere in the world, for he dares to visit any forest in the world. In fact, he has already performed stunts in the movies.”

Example #5: “Having performed a derring-do in the movie, Billy thinks that he can do the same in the zoo, though, the first sight of the lion made him flee for his life.”