“I Owe Him My Life” & “To Make an Honest Woman of Her”


Zoltán from Hungary wants to know what these two expressions mean: “to owe my life to him” and “to make an honest woman of her.”

When you owe something to someone, it means that you are indebted to them, or that you are required to give something to them in exchange for something that this person gave you.  If I borrow money from Jeff, I owe him money until I pay him back.  If I do a favor for Jeff, he owes me a future favor.

To owe your life to someone or to owe someone your life, though, means that another person was responsible for saving your life at some time.  You could say: “I owe my life to the fire fighters who ran into the burning building to rescue me.”

Sometimes we use this phrase when it’s not a matter of life and death, but is still something very serious or very important to us.  For example, if you’ve been without a job for many months and your friend helps you find a job, you may say to her, “I owe you my life!”

To make an honest woman of her is an old-fashioned phrase that we now use comically (to be funny).  To make an honest woman of someone means to marry a woman.

In the old days, the idea was that if a man was dating a woman and was having an intimate/sexual relationship with her, then she was somehow doing something wrong.  By marrying her, you would be erasing (removing) or correcting those mistakes, making her a good, honest woman again.

In the U.S., this is now an old-fashioned idea and if someone uses this expression, it is to ask when you and your girlfriend are going to get married.  Someone might say to you: “You and Pam have been going out (dating) for almost three years.  When are you going to make an honest woman of her?”

Thanks for the questions, Zoltán, and I hope this is helpful.

~ Lucy

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18 Responses to “I Owe Him My Life” & “To Make an Honest Woman of Her”

  1. Elisangelo (preto) says:

    Hi lucy,

    I am so glad to read from you, those such good articles and comments, they really make us feel closier to understand the english sense of an ideia. Indeed now more then never I am pretty sure that english, portuguese, spanish and some of others languages have gotten born in the same nest…. It`s so good to realized a tons of words that seem pretty alike as much as written as well as pronounced.

    But what really really make me impressed in fact, they`re lots of quots and statements and even those sayings that the ordinary americans people usually say… including the old-fashinoed sayings, which are really the same or transmited the same idea that those we`re used to say in Brasil.

    like those that you just wrote right above my comment.

    I am very happy to be able to follow your podcasts and blog posts…

    eslpod team, my best regards to all of you.

    and a big bear hug to my blog friends.

  2. Peter says:

    Thanks Lucy,

    The woman experssion is oldfashioned ,but not out of date. I heard people use it here and there. I heard it first in a movie ,but I have no recollection which movie It was . from what I remmember , it was a funny movie. Anyway, thanks Lucy for the input. Thanks for all the good deeds on your part.

  3. Julio says:

    For sure, I owe my life to my parents, even though I usually forget it, mainly when not visiting my mother more frequently. But I think it is a life’s rule.
    Furthermore, I try not to owe anything to anyone (except some money seldom to someone) because one ever has to pay for it, and I believe it is better to lend than to borrow.
    As for the honesty, I can’t help but smiling, while attempting to imagine my wife’s reaction if I had told her a thing like that. I think she would have fired at me, if she had had a weapon. Of course, It is an old-fashioned phrase!
    Best regards from Spain,
    Julio (Jack).-

  4. emiliano says:

    As Julio said, if I ever said Cuca a phrase like that for sure that she would be very disappointed with me and may be she thought I was mad for
    the moment of asking her to marry me.
    May be if she thought that way she may forgive me, but if she thinks I said that thing seriously she would fired me off from her side.

    Thinking about the matter it is possible that having so few women in the usa farwest, and many of the few were easy women and very often working
    in the saloon, if a cowboy wanted to marry one of them he said such a thing to her……just because he was taking her off her work and easy customs,
    dancing and doing other things that of course once married she doesn´t do any more.

    It is just what I have seen very often in the westerns films, and it is possible that the phrase comes from those old times of going to the new lands.

    To my friends I owe lot of things, as they have helped me so may times that I can´t count them.

    Recently my good friends Camila and Alicia helped me, without asking them, in an ocasion very special to me as I have to prepare at home something very friendly and important to me by that moments, and they did it perfectly well.

    And it has been quite often when they or other friends have helped me along the ten last years, when I have needed so may things.
    So from here, thank you to all my good friends.

    Lucy, you are a special friend to all of us too, you know it perfectly well and we owe you lot of things all these four last years.
    Same as Jeff that we owe him so great moments listening his marvellous voice day after day and learning so much English with him.

    Thank you both of you and to all ESL team. emiliano

  5. emiliano says:

    Yes, I understand what Julio said, as it is easier to give than to receive. But what I have learned along these years that I really need help it is that we need the way of knowing how to receive and how to give. The two things are important if we want good relationship between the persons we love.
    Giving whithout hope nothing is very good to the mind always and it is very nice to the person that gives, indeed.

    Receiving and thanking the person who gives or helps us is a good way of having mildness and humbleness and to me, so proud before, has been a very good and instructive lesson to my mind and my heart.
    Sometimes is quite more difficut to accept than to give or help, I know it perfectly well, and just some equivalency is neccesary if we want to have good friends and relationship around us.

    Everybody likes to give, that´s true…..but they know how to acept?…that´s the point.
    I talk because I have been through both situations, giving and receiving, for nearly ten or more years, and it has been very instructive and today I feel myself better than before when I didn´t want to receive anything and thought I was sufficient enough, what a big mistake.
    I like very much persons who know how to receive, that means to me that they are sure and have a firm and nice character and they know quite well how to give
    thanks and please the other who obsequious them.

  6. magda says:

    I am improving my bad English, and I want to say – Lucy and Jeff, I owe you the nice hours I ´ve been listening you for these latest months. ( I don´t know If I wrote well…..lol)

  7. Peter says:

    right , we owe them a big deal

    The fact is, I didn’t learn English through them, but I got fluent via them.hum,seems like it is a distinction with no diference.

    It is 1130 Toronto time , the night is still young but I am already old

    Nighty night pals

  8. Peter says:

    Thanks for your giving hands that what you set forth will last us out.

    My dear Profs ,Jeff and lucy

    Thanks for throwing numerous terms and expressions my way. I wish I could reach you, English wise . Probably , not this life time .
    If there is such a thing as karmic justic you guys got yourselves a sweet deal up there.I will bet my button dollar on it

  9. kobe.Su says:

    when i saw the phrase To make an honest woman of her i thought it means to make an woman confront/face her feeling honestly to a guy who she deny the feeling of like or love that she actrally loves very much. maybe by this subconscious understanding plus what it really mean, to marry a women, i dont feel anything wrong with this phrase if using by one man asking a wonmen to marry him.
    haha, so i’m curious how would Julio and Emiliano’s wife to react to this phrase“`they might not thinking the way as you guys thought.
    GOOD NITE Peter

    thank you for your generosity again, Lucy,Jeff, and your stuff.

  10. peter says:

    Here comes the downer ,

    My dear blog-buddies
    I just looked over your comments. Seems like of all of us , all of us agree on one thing -that is, Eslpod team deserves kudos.But what would it be?

    There is a good saying :
    Actions speak louder than words

  11. peter says:

    No lampoon is intended guys

  12. emiliano says:

    This morning I have asked Cuca her opinion about such a phrase, and she told me “If you said something like that to me I would tell you: Be off here and make an honest
    man of yourself”.
    This is the spanishwoman way of thinking, and of course, I agree absolutely with them.
    Yes, I have to think it is a very old fashioned phrase but very interesting of knowing.

    Thanks Lucy, you are quite ironic and amused as ever, always teaching us so funny things.
    Thanks also to Zoltán from Hungary, nice and beautiful country that I have visited some time ago. Did you use that phrase in your country?…..I don´t think so.
    But please, tell us what is the way of asking a girl to marry a boy, it should be nice to know.

  13. Vlad says:

    This blogpost, this expressions, are very interesting.
    Thank you Lucy.

  14. kobe.Su says:

    hi Emiliano, obviously you know your wife very well:)

  15. emiliano says:

    Kobe, I think so, we have been sharing our lifes together along the last 40 years. She knows me perfectly well and so do I, I think, because it is well known that
    never you can know a woman as well as she did with a man.
    We are more simple and easy to get for them.

    At home I had four women. My wife and three daughters, I was happy but sometimes I miss a boy or a man near me, just to talk the way men do.
    Have in mind that before, with my parents, I had two sisters only……I miss a brother too.

  16. Tania says:

    Hi ! In memoriam Michael Jackson and in Romania we can watch his movie “This is it ” in our most important cities in the same time with L.A.
    A great artist …


  17. Elisangelo (preto) says:

    hey everybory…. what`s up!!!

    Peter….. as I had commented above, it`s pretty amazing how the sayings are so alike in different countries…. there you go!!!! That saying that you just shot it right above, there is some saying in portuguese which has the same idea; it would be like: actions are worth more than words!

    thanks to every one for participate in the blog!

  18. Tanita says:

    Hello to everybody!
    ESLpod is very useful and interesting… Like Piter, I don’t learn much English through podcasts, because I read a lot of books in English and catch much stuff from them… But I’m really getting my English fluent via them :)) And of course I learn a lot of interesting information from pods 🙂
    Emiliano and Julio 🙂 It seems to me, spanish women take their married status very seriously and don’t like to make a joke of it and themselves…
    Jeff and Lucy, thank you so much for your work!

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