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nearest and dearest

One's closest and fondest friends, companions, or relatives, as in It's a small gathering—we're inviting only a dozen or so of our nearest and dearest. This rhyming expression has been used ironically since the late 1500s, as well as by Shakespeare in 1 Henry IV (3:2): “Why, Harry, do I tell thee of my foes, which art my nearest and dearest enemy?”

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.