constant dropping wears away a stone

Primarily used to mean that persistence will achieve a difficult or unlikely objective (but see also quots. 1874 and 1912). Continual frequently occurs instead of constant in the US. Cf. CHOERILUS OF SAMOS Fragments x. (Kinkel) πέτρην κοιλαίνει ῥανὶς ὕδατος ἐνδελεχείῃ, with persistence a drop of water hollows out the stone; TIBULLUS Elegies I. iv. 18 longa dies molli saxa peredit aqua, length of time eats away stones with soft water.

a 1250 Ancrene Wisse (1962) 114 Lutle dropen thurleth (pierce) the flint the (that) ofte falleth theron.

c 1477 CAXTON Jason (EETS) 26 The stone is myned and holowed by contynuell droppyng of water.

1591 SHAKESPEARE Henry VI, Pt. 3 III. ii. 50 He plies her hard; and much rain wears the marble.

1793 T. COKE Extracts from Journals III. ii. The Negroes of Barbadoes..are much less prepared for the reception of genuine religion. But constant dropping, ’tis said, will wear out a stone.

1841 DICKENS Old Curiosity Shop I. vii. As to Nell, constant dropping will wear away a stone, you know you may trust me as far as she is concerned.

1874 G. J. WHYTE-MELVILLE Uncle John I. vi. Constant dropping wears away a stone; constant flirtation saps the character.

1912 D. H. LAWRENCE Letter 19 Dec. (1962) I. 169 She says a woman can only have one husband... Constant dropping will wear away a stone, as my mother used to say.

1963 E. S. GARDNER Case of Mischievous Doll vii. The constant dripping water..can wear away the toughest stone.


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