Phrase: ‘Bane of my life’

Phrase: ‘Bane of my life’, this is used to refer to something extremely irritating to the speaker personally.

The word bane is the interesting one here, it crops up in ‘wolfbane’, the name of a very poisonous plant and as a Batman baddie, but where does it come from?

Bane comes from the old English word ‘bana’ which is first found recorded in the ‘Old English chronicles’ – one of the foremost texts on English history and dated at around 800 CE. Its meaning in the text is equivalent to ‘murderer’ so you can imagine that the bane of my life back then was very literal.

The word ‘bana’ comes from early germanic ‘bano’ meaning ‘death’, which has its roots in the Proto-Indo-European language.

The word ‘bane’ started to mean anything which is really irritating in around 1570 and the first known record of the phrase ‘Bane of his life’ is found in in the 1592 text ‘Foure Letters and certaine Sonnets’ by Gabriel Harvey.


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