A quiver full of arrows

Quiver full of arrows: idiom

Thanks to prolific author Jeffrey Archer the idiom ‘a quiver full of arrows’ penetrated our language to a great extent after 1980 when he published a book with this title.

A quiver full of arrows means to have more than one option available to utilise. In Archer’s Quiver Full of Arrows he gives his fans 12 short stories to choose from.

With millions of fans and high praise from the writing community claiming him to be among the top ten writers of all time and, according to the late Larry King “the best writer alive” it’s no wonder the idiom is well-used.

No history

There is very little available on the history of the idiom in that exact phrasing but there is more on ‘quiver.’

According to Oxford Reference, a quiver is “An archer’s portable case for holding arrows. The word is recorded from Middle English, and is ultimately of West Germanic origin.

“In British humorous usage, quiverful can mean a large number of offspring (originally with biblical allusion to Psalm 127:5, ‘Like as the arrows in the hand of the giant: even so are the young children. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them’).

In many religions children are considered a sign of wealth but at what cost? Tomorrowsworld.org says: In God’s eyes, having a “quiver” well-stocked with children is good! What can we learn from God’s simple analogy? Why does it refer to children as “arrows in the hand of a warrior”? Perhaps this inspired metaphor can help us rethink our perspective on children.”

Modern usage

For modern language purposes it means to have one of a number of resources or strategies that can be drawn on or followed, the Oxford Reference adds.

You may find this phrasing used in politics where one or other individual has to talk their way out of a tight spot.

The opposition might hope the candidate ‘has more than one arrow in their quiver’ as an expression of doubt about what they have just heard.

Just to re-iterate there’s much more information on Jeffrey Archer’s version of A Quiver Full of Arrows than its original biblical application. Perhaps we have moved on from biblical times?

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