Wouldn’t Harm a Fly Meaning
Definition: Very peaceful and nonviolent.
This expression often emphasizes how gentle and kind a person is. A variant of this expression is wouldn’t hurt a fly.
Origin of Wouldn’t Harm a Fly
This expression first appeared in the late 1700s. The idea is that most people would have no problem killing a fly, a widely despised animal.
However, if a person were so incredibly gentle and peaceful, he or she might take pity on a fly and allow it to live. A person who wouldn’t kill a fly is very non-violent, gentle, kind, etc.
Examples of Wouldn’t Harm a Fly
In the below dialogue, one friend uses the idiom to describe another friend. This other friend is under suspicion of murder by the police.
Ezekiel: Maggie! Did you hear what happened to Gunther?
Maggie: No. What happened?
Ezekiel: The police arrested him.
Maggie: Oh no! Why?
Ezekiel: They think he murdered someone.
Maggie: That’s ridiculous. Gunther wouldn’t harm a fly, let alone murder someone!
Ezekiel: I know. That’s what I said!
Here is another example, in which one friend uses the idiom to defend herself from an accusation of violence.
Mila: Hey! How’s it going?
Tyrion: To be honest with you, I’m pretty upset.
Mila: What’s wrong?
Tyrion: I asked you to watch my dog over the weekend.
Mila: And I did. It was a lot of fun!
Tyrion: Did you kick my dog?
Mila: What? Absolutely not! I wouldn’t harm a fly. I would never hurt any living creature, especially not a dog.
Tyrion: Okay. I guess I believe you. It’s just my dog has a big bruise on his side.
In this excerpt, a woman describes how kind and gentle a disabled man is. She is emphasizing what a good person he is to explain that she doesn’t believe the police should have shot him six times for a traffic violation.
“He likes the boardwalk,” Ms. Verity said. “He’s very good-hearted. He wouldn’t harm a fly.” –New York Times
This excerpt describes how a murdered man was a very good person who was very peaceful.
There was no nonsense with him. He was no angel, but a great guy. He enjoyed a drink, he worked hard, played hard and lived life like it should be lived. He wouldn’t harm a fly. He was the kind of guy that no doubt would have made the community a better place.”–New York Daily News
The phrase wouldn’t harm a fly is a way to describe a very good hearted person who wouldn’t hurt anyone.