Other Word Forms
Origin of ivory-tower
- Translation of French tour d'ivoire tour tower de of ivoire ivory
From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition
- First attested in English in a translation of Laughter by French philosopher Henri Bergson (translation 1911 by Frederick Rothwell and Cloudesley Shovell Henry Brereton). Term popularized in The Ivory Tower (1917) by Henry James, though used in different sense (millionaires, not professors).
- Figurative sense from French tour d'ivoire, coined by Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve in the poem Pensés d’Août (Thoughts of August) (1837) to compare the poet Alfred de Vigny (more isolated) with Victor Hugo (more socially engaged), in the line:
- Originally Song of Solomon 7:4, used as simile for the woman’s beautiful neck:
- 1911, calque of French figurative use, based on literal biblical phrase.