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sweetness and light definition


Define the meaning of the English word sweetness and light below. Sweetness and light is a noun. Also define these 0 related words and terms: .



First used by the Anglo-Irish author Jonathan Swift (1667–1745) in “A Full and True Account of the Battel Fought Last Friday, between the Antient and the Modern Books in St. James’s Library”, known as “The Battle of the Books”, which was originally published in A Tale of a Tub (1704): see the quotation.[1]



sweetness and light (uncountable)

  1. (idiomatic, often in the negative or ironic) That which is good, pleasant, pure, etc.
    • 1704, [Jonathan Swift], “A Full and True Account of the Battel Fought Last Friday, between the Antient and the Modern Books in St. James’s Library”, in A Tale of a Tub. [], London: [] John Nutt, [], published 1705, OCLC 752990886, page 251:
      The Difference is, that inſtead of Dirt and Poiſon, we have rather choſe to fill our Hives with Honey and Wax, thus furniſhing Mankind with the two Nobleſt of Things, which are Sweetneſs and Light.
    • 1927 April 9, P[elham] G[renville] Wodehouse, “The Story of William”, in Meet Mr. Mulliner, London: Herbert Jenkins [], published 27 September 1927, OCLC 24963618, page 186:
      Sorrow and disillusionment racked William Mulliner like a physical pain. That his friends inside there, in spite of the fact that he had been all sweetness and light and had not done a thing to them, should have thrown him out into the hard street was the saddest thing he had ever heard of; and for some minutes he sat there, weeping silently.
    • 1985, Rodger Bradley, Amtrak: The US National Railroad Passenger Corporation, Poole, Dorset: Blandford Press, →ISBN, page 164:
      The working relationship between Amtrak and the contracting railroads, and the Government for that matter, is not, and has never been all sweetness and light, and many railroads still find the passenger train to be a hindrance to the beloved freight.
    • 2003, Richard Holt, “Great Britain: The Amateur Tradition”, in Arnd Krüger and William [J.] Murray, editors, The Nazi Olympics: Sport, Politics and Appeasement in the 1930s, Urbana; Chicago, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, →ISBN, page 76:
      So it transpired, though not everything at Garmisch was sweetness and light. The leader of the British team, Arnold Lunn, the "father of alpine ski racing" and a British public school amateur to the core, was a conservative Catholic who disliked the "professionalism" of National Socialist sport.
    • 2009 August, Jono Bacon, “Communicating Clearly”, in Andy Oram and Simon St. Laurent, editors, The Art of Community: Building the New Age of Participation, Sebastopol, Calif.: O’Reilly Media, →ISBN, page 72:
      Mailing lists are not all sweetness and light, though. Joining a mailing list is a little complex. It requires people to know how to join, sign up with an email address, respond to the mail, and know where to send messages.


See also


  1. ^ sweetness and light” under “sweetness, n.”, in OED Online , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2021; “sweetness and light, phrase”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading