sum and substance

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Origin of sum and substance

First recorded in 1585–95
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018


Idioms and Phrases with sum and substance

sum and substance

The essence or gist of something, as in The sum and substance of their platform is financial conservatism. This redundant expression—both sum and substance here mean “essence”—has probably survived owing to alliteration. Shakespeare used it in The Two Gentlemen of Verona (4:1): “My riches are these poor habiliments [clothes], Of which if you should here disfurnish me, You take the sum and substance that I have.”

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