MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Why do we say "Elementary, my dear Watson"?

Well-Known Expressions

Elementary, my dear Watson


It's straightforward/simple


Almost everyone will recognize this expression as being from the mouth of legendary detective Sherlock Holmes. But it is not found in any of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories (published between 1886 and 1927). Instead, it seems that the first time Holmes expresses his signature phrase is in the 1929 film, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, with Clive Brook in the role of Holmes, released the year before Conan Doyle's death in 1930.

As The Phrase Finder points out, Conan Doyle gets very close to formulating the expression in various Sherlock Holmes stories, with Holmes describing events as "elementary" in "The Crooked Man" and addressing his sidekick as "my dear, Watson" on a number of occasions; but it took other writers to synthesize the expression we know today.

For example, Quote Investigator cites a 1908 article printed in a Rochester, New York newspaper describing a a system to send signals to the planet Mars using mirrors, and the unnamed writer opines that "It is such a simple little problem that any one should be able to take a pad and pencil and work it out in ten minutes. 'Elementary, my dear Watson,' as Sherlock Holmes was wont to say, 'Elementary.'"

Alphabetical list of expressions

Challenge yourself with BookBrowse Wordplays

One-Month Free

Discover books that
entertain, engage & enlighten.

Join Now!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Utopia Avenue
    Utopia Avenue
    by David Mitchell
    David Mitchell's Utopia Avenue follows the path of an eclectic rock group — the eponymous ...
  • Book Jacket: The Stone Girl
    The Stone Girl
    by Dirk Wittenborn
    The Stone Girl by Dirk Wittenborn was a hit with our First Impressions reviewers, with 19 out of 21 ...
  • Book Jacket: The Last Train to Key West
    The Last Train to Key West
    by Chanel Cleeton
    The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton received very positive comments from our First ...
  • Book Jacket: Tokyo Ueno Station
    Tokyo Ueno Station
    by Yu Miri
    Kazu is a ghost, seemingly condemned to haunt one of Japan's busiest train stations, the grounds of ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Voyage of the Morning Light
    by Marina Endicott

    A sweeping novel set aboard a merchant ship sailing through the South Pacific in 1912.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Beekeeper of Aleppo
by Christy Lefteri

This moving, intimate, and beautifully written novel puts human faces on the Syrian war.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Book Club Giveaway!
Win The Wedding Thief

The Wedding Thief
by Mary Simses

Funny, soulful, and as sweet as buttercream, The Wedding Thief is the perfect summer read.



Solve this clue:

N M Cup O T

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

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

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.