(covers information from several alternate timelines)
Metaphors were common quotations, figures of speech, usually offering a piece of wisdom in reference to a present situation. Idioms had phrasing that had figurative meaning often unrelated to the actual phrasing, while proverbs were commonly sourced from folklore, historical allusion, or tribal memories.
Colorful metaphors might be used to express emotion.
- Claimed to be an antiquated adage by Seven of Nine.
Children of the Son Edit
"may the wind be at our backs" (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)
- Described as a "night blessing".
"Live long and prosper"
"Peace and long life"
"May your journey be free of incident" (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
Other and of unknown origin Edit
Between a rock and a hard place Edit
Being "between a rock and a hard place" is an Earth idiom, meaning that someone is in a situation where he or she can choose between two alternatives, and neither of them are acceptable.
Burning the midnight oil Edit
"Burning the midnight oil" was an Earth idiom meaning staying up late at night working or studying.
In 2143, A.G. Robinson, who got to be the first Human to test the NX-Alpha test vehicle, told Jonathan Archer that he didn't get this assignment because he tried too hard, "burning the midnight oil" in the simulator eighteen to twenty hours a day. (ENT: "First Flight")
That same year, Janeway, who was working very late one night in the mess hall, told Neelix that she was "just burning the midnight oil", to which Neelix replied that it was way past midnight. (VOY: "Fair Haven")
In an alternate timeline in 2364, Captain Jean-Luc Picard ordered Miles O'Brien to bypass the secondary plasma inducer, which required O'Brien to realign the entire power grid, stating "we're all going to be burning the midnight oil on this one." Data, who overheard O'Brien, told him that that would be inadvisable because any "attempt to ignite a petroleum product on this ship at 0:00 hours [would] activate the fire suppression system." (TNG: "All Good Things...")
Can't see the forest for the trees Edit
To say one "can't see the forest for the trees" was an Earth idiom, meaning that one was so caught up in small details that they weren't able to see the bigger picture.
In 2373, Miles O'Brien felt he hadn't been able to see the forest for the trees when it was Rom who explained to him that the modifications that he had been making to equipment on Deep Space 9 on the orders of a Pah-wraith that had possessed his wife were designed to turn the station into a chroniton array aimed at the Bajoran wormhole, one which could kill the Prophets. (DS9: "The Assignment")
C'est la vie Edit
"C'est la vie" (French: "that's life") is a Human idiom, meaning bad things happen, it's the way of life.
In 2285, when Admiral James Kirk self-destructed the USS Enterprise, killing most of Kruge's Klingon crew on board, he told the Commander on the surface of the Genesis planet: "Sorry about your crew, but as we say on Earth, ...'c'est la vie.'" (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)
Chicken and the egg Edit
In an alternate anti-time future created by Q, retired captain Jean-Luc Picard, used the question of the chicken the egg as a metaphor to explain the paradox of the anti-time anomaly to Geordi La Forge, Beverly Picard, Data, and William Riker aboard the USS Enterprise-D. (TNG: "All Good Things...")
In 2372, B'Elanna Torres described establishing communication with a duplicate of the USS Voyager by getting them to recalibrate their comm frequency carrier wave before they'd first made contact as "the chicken and the egg." (VOY: "Deadlock")
In the 31st century, Jonathan Archer described Daniels' urgent need to restore the original timeline by returning the captain to the 22nd century whilst lacking the technology to do so as "a chicken or the egg problem." (ENT: "Shockwave, Part II")
Archer again said "Chicken or the egg" after Daniels had sent Enterprise NX-01 back in time to 1944 to stop Vosk's temporal incursions, and it became apparent that the timeline had changed prior to the 1940s, with Lenin's death in 1916. (ENT: "Storm Front, Part II")
Clean their chronometersEdit
Colonel West while proposing operation retrieve assured the Federation President that should the operation precipitate a full-scale war with the Klingon Empire, Starfleet could quite frankly "clean their chronometers". (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)
Dining on ashesEdit
Falling on deaf earsEdit
"Falling on deaf ears" means something that some believe should be heeded is not.
For all the tea in China Edit
In 1986, Gillian Taylor told time traveler Admiral James Kirk, when he explained to her that they want to bring George and Gracie to the 23rd century, and asked her if she's curious about the details, she said, "I wouldn't miss it for all the tea in China." (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
Handing something on a silver platter Edit
This term referred to something that was offered to someone in a rather obvious manner.
In 2375, Neelix offered B'Elanna Torres the chance to insult his cooking by telling her to name her poison. After she missed that chance, he seemed disappointed, claiming he'd handed it to her on a silver platter. (VOY: "Extreme Risk")
Having one's head on a platterEdit
This expression meant that the person saying it was angry at someone and intended to punish them for their actions.
I couldn't fill your shoes Edit
"I couldn't fill your shoes" was a Human idiom, describing one being in a bad situation, which the other person couldn't bear.
In 2286, Leonard McCoy told Spock, when he suffered from memory loss after being resurrected, "What I mean is I may have carried your soul, but I sure couldn't fill your shoes," to which Spock replied, "My shoes?" (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
If we play our cards right Edit
"If we play our cards right" was a Human idiom, meaning "if things go well".
Joined at the hip Edit
This term referred to people being so close to one another as to appear inseparable (physically or emotionally)
Keep it under your hat Edit
May God have mercy upon your soul Edit
"May God have mercy upon your soul" was a phrase used in some ancient Earth cultures upon sentencing a person to execution. It was used in that capacity during Worf's 2371 promotion ceremony, which included holodeck roleplaying on an sea vessel and involved him walking the plank. (Star Trek Generations)
A variant of the phrase, "May God have mercy on our souls", was used by Malcolm Reed to end his final log entry when stranded in shuttlepod 1 and he believed there was no chance of rescue. (ENT: "Shuttlepod One")
Media circus Edit
"Media circus" was a Human idiom which described a news event where the coverage was out of proportion to the event itself.
My mind's turned to clay Edit
Needle in a haystack Edit
In 2369 while searching for the crash landed runabout USS Yangtzee Kiang in the Gamma Quadrant, Miles O'Brien compared the search with searching a needle in a haystack. O'Brien and Jadzia Dax had to search several planets, two dozen moons, and an asteroid belt. (DS9: "Battle Lines")
In 2373, Jadzia Dax said to Benjamin Sisko "Do the words 'needle in a haystack' mean anything to you?", after the USS Defiant had spent two days unsuccessfully searching the Badlands for cloaked missiles appropriated by the Maquis for a strike against Cardassia. (DS9: "Blaze of Glory")
Over my dead body Edit
Penny for your thoughts Edit
"Penny for your thoughts" is a Human idiom, meaning that someone is curious about what the other person is thinking.
In 2368, Doctor Beverly Crusher used the expression when she wanted to get Jean-Luc Picard to talk to her during a conversation. When Picard asked her if she has one, she told him that the replicator probably has it on file. (TNG: "The Perfect Mate")
In 2369, when Q brought back Picard to the incident at Starbase Earhart in 2327, he told him (acting as a bartender): "Penny for your thoughts? You never told me you were such a lady's man," also jokingly referring to Picard's unsuccessful date with Penny Muroc. (TNG: "Tapestry")
Rich beyond the dreams of avarice Edit
Doctor Leonard McCoy managed to convince doctor Nichols to accept the formula for transparent aluminum as compensation for his services by saying that once he figured out the dynamics of the matrix (which would take years), he'd be rich beyond the dreams of avarice. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
Sauce for the goose Edit
The Earth idiom "what's sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander," was in part spoken by Spock following Saavik's notation that Khan Noonien Singh, aboard the USS Reliant was following the USS Enterprise into the Mutara Nebula. In response, Spock stated stated "sauce for the goose, Mr. Saavik" (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
Stone knives and bearskins Edit
"Stone knives and bearskins" was a colorful term employed by Spock to describe the 1930s technology he was forced to use to construct a tricorder interface. Vital information was locked within Spock's tricorder: How had Leonard McCoy changed history? Spock was eventually able to construct an appropriate circuit, but retrieved two separate recordings: one in which Edith Keeler lived, and one in which she died. At that point, the improvised interface erupted in sparks and flame, ruining his chance to learn which of the recordings represented McCoy's alteration, and which the correct timeline. (TOS: "The City on the Edge of Forever")
Wash my hands of it Edit
"Wash my hands of it" is an expression used to avert a wrong decision, claiming that the person can not be held responsible for it. It comes from the Bible, and was said by Pilate after he sentenced Jesus Christ to crucifixion, for the push of the crowd, however he saw he was apparently innocent.
In 2266, Doctor Simon Van Gelder accused Captain James T. Kirk of escaping responsibility by taking him back to the Tantalus colony, and told him, "You smart, button-pushing brass hat. Wash your hands of it. Is that your system? You're both quite sure of yourselves, aren't you?" (TOS: "Dagger of the Mind")
Wild goose chase Edit
"Wild goose chase" is an expression used to mean futile pursuit or search after something.
In 2268, Leonard McCoy accused Spock of "run[ning] off on some wild goose chase halfway across the galaxy," when Kirk, Uhura and Chekov disappeared from Gamma II. Spock replied, "Doctor, I am chasing the captain, Lieutenant Uhura, and Ensign Chekov, not some wild aquatic fowl." (TOS: "The Gamesters of Triskelion")
After Katherine Pulaski was abducted by Professor James Moriarty in 2365, Geordi La Forge believed she planned "to lead [Data] on a wild goose chase and then recount the story to everyone between here and Alpha Centauri." (TNG: "Elementary, Dear Data")
In 2367, Data told Doctor Beverly Crusher, that he "could be chasing an untamed ornithoid without a cause," describing this idiom, when examining the clues of Ambassador T'Pel's presumed death. Crusher eventually recognized the idiom, and corrected him with its common form. (TNG: "Data's Day")
sight for sore eyes Edit
Something was said to be a "sight for sore eyes" when it was pleasing to look at.
Be careful what you wish for Edit
In 2285, after ""Mr. Adventure" complained that he wanted more challenges, adventure and surprises in his life, Uhura said "be careful what you wish for" and locked him in a closet. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)
Second wind Edit
Finding a second wind meant regaining energy after a certain activity had gotten tired.
During a 2153 engine test aboard Enterprise, field fluctuations dropped to zero, which lead captain Archer to suggest that they had gotten their second wind. That impression was incorrect. (ENT: "Similitude")
Upon James T. Kirk asking Montgomery Scott if the Enterprise could hold its speed while rushing to the Genesis Planet in 2285, Scott remarked in the affirmative, saying that she had just gotten her second wind. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)
- Mark Twain claimed to have always lived by this maxim.
"Double dumb ass on you" (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
- Said to be used where Leonard McCoy was from.
In 2267, Spock described Trelane's repositioning of the planet Gothos so that it was always in front of the USS Enterprise's flight path as a "cat-and-mouse game", Kirk adding that they were the mouse. (TOS: "The Squire of Gothos")
William T. Riker referred to an Earth nursery rhyme, "What Are Little Boys Made Of?", which stated: "Girls are made from sugar and spice, boys are made from snips and snails... and puppy dog tails," to describe the "old-fashioned way of looking at the sexes" to the androgynous Soren. He later clarified that "physically, men are bigger, stronger" and that they "have different sexual organs". He also noted that "men can't bear young." (TNG: "The Outcast")
Poetic justice Edit
In 2268, when questioned by a time travelling Worf on his plan to assassinate James T. Kirk, Arne Darvin would only say that his death would have a certain poetic justice to it. (DS9: "Trials and Tribble-ations")
In 2371, Kathryn Janeway threatened Noah Lessing with dropping the USS Voyager's shields and allowing his "little friends" to find him. He called it murder; she called it poetic justice. (VOY: "Equinox")
Proverbs and sayings Edit
- Said to be an old saying.
The following were quoted as Ferengi sayings, but were not stated to be included in the Rules of Acquisition:
- Claimed to be an old Ferengi saying by Quark.
- Used among Chakotay's people.
- Michael Sullivan speculated that this might be of Irish origin.
- Attributed to Kolopak.
- Spock claimed this to be "an arab proverb attributed to a prince who was betrayed and decapitated by his own subjects".
- Described by Captain Sisko as an old saying.
"the angels themselves take pleasure in their bodies of light"
- A holographic Lord Byron described this as something that is said.
"The way to a woman's heart is through her stomach"
- Attributed by Captain Sisko to his father
"Wouldn't hurt a fly" (Star Trek Generations)
"sauce for the goose" (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
"It never rains but it pours" (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
"If the shoe fits, wear it"
"Revenge is a dish that is best served cold." (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
"Today is a good day to die."
Mikhal Traveler Edit
Other and of unknown origin Edit
"The early bird that hesitates gets wormed"
"Beware Romulans bearing gifts" (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)