Ivory-tower meaning

A place or attitude of retreat, especially preoccupation with lofty, remote, or intellectual considerations rather than practical everyday life.
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A condition or place, as academia, regarded as isolated or withdrawn from the practical affairs of society.
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(idiomatic) A sheltered, overly-academic existence or perspective, implying a disconnection or lack of awareness of reality or practical considerations.

Such a proposal looks fine from an ivory tower, but it could never work in real life.

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Separated from reality and practical matters; overly academic.
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Other Word Forms

Noun

Singular:
ivory-tower
Plural:
ivory-towers

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).

    From Wiktionary

  • 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:

    From Wiktionary

  • Originally Song of Solomon 7:4, used as simile for the woman’s beautiful neck:

    From Wiktionary

  • 1911, calque of French figurative use, based on literal biblical phrase.

    From Wiktionary