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to the manner born

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A person who is “to the manner born” is one who has acquired genteel tastes and habits by virtue of having been born into a privileged class: “Rachel is charming at dinner parties — as if she were to the manner born.” This expression is sometimes mistakenly rendered as “to the manor born.” The phrase is from Hamlet, by William Shakespeare.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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to the manner born

Accustomed from birth to a particular behavior or lifestyle, as in At a high-society function she behaves as though to the manner born, but we know she came from very humble circumstances. This term was invented by Shakespeare in Hamlet. Referring to the King's carousing in Danish style, Hamlet says (1:4): “Though I am native here And to the manner born, it is a custom More honor'd in the breach than the observance.” The manner in this expression was later sometimes changed to manor, “the main house of an estate,” and the idiom's sense became equated with “high-born” (and therefore accustomed to luxury), a way in which it is often used today.

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