The meaning of, and background to, the well-known expression "In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Well-Known Expressions

In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king

Meaning:

Among incompetents, even mediocrity passes for brilliance

Background:

The first known reference to this proverb is in Why Come Ye Nat to Courte?, a poem by  Englishman John Skelton, published around 1522. The poem is one of a number in which he takes Cardinal Wolsey to task, with pithy lines such as these:

He is so ambicyous
So shamles, and so vicious
And so supersticyous
And so moche oblivious…

Some years before, Skelton had been appointed tutor to the future Henry VIII and was on good terms with Thomas Wolsey, but he ended up in prison later in his life, most likely having offended the, by then, very powerful Cardinal Wolsey. Not long after, Skelton retired from court and became rector of Diss, a town in the East of England, well away from the intrigue of the Tudor court.

Emasmus, who was acquainted with Skelton and his poetry, expressed a similar thought in "Adagia" a few years later: In regione caecorum rex est luscus (in the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king).

Alphabetical list of expressions

Challenge yourself with BookBrowse Wordplays

Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...
  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...
  • Book Jacket
    The Stranger on the Train
    by Abbie Taylor
    The opening chapter of Abbie Taylor's debut novel, The Stranger on the Train, took me right back to ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  166The City:
    Dean Koontz

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.