I was not familiar with this archaic phrase until I read about it just now in Language Log (Mark Liberman division)—which surprised the heck out of me, since I’ve been stuffing my brain with archaic material for nigh on half a century now (I presume the first few years were taken up with more modern words and phrases, like “mommy” and “no!”). Furthermore, my wife did know the expression, a discrepancy in knowledge that gave her no little pleasure. At any rate, the short version is “by no manner of means is an archaic emphatic form of by no means, just as in no kind of way is an modern emphatic form of in no way“; if you want the details, including the many ways the phrase has been distorted, go read Mark’s excellent entry with its plethora of citations.


  1. I can think of one place you’ve certainly seen it before. Oh, and another.

  2. Well riposted, and quickly too! Actually, my first draft of the post started “This archaic phrase was unknown to me,” but I thought “That’s too strong — I’ve probably seen or heard it and just not paid attention enough to assimilate it,” so I went with the “unfamiliar” phrasing. When I look at your Ulysses links, I realize it does ring a bell in that context, so it was probably seeing it stripped of its Joycean surroundings that, um, Othered it for me.

  3. In case people don’t feel like clicking on the links (I feel satisfied now I see I managed to make Hat go hunting), here are the citations in context:
    He led the way, admonishing:
    — We will sternly refuse to partake of strong waters, will we not? Yes, we will not. By no manner of means.
    Mr O’Madden Burke, following close, said with an ally’s lunge of his umbrella:
    — Lay on, Macduff! [Ulysses, Chapter Seven]
    The elder man, though not by any manner of means an old maid or a prude, said that it was nothing short of a crying scandal that ought to be put a stop to instanter to say that women of that stamp (quite apart from any oldmaidish squeamishness on the subject), a necessary evil, were not licensed and medically inspected by the proper authorities, a thing he could truthfully state he, as a paterfamilias, was a stalwart advocate of from the very first start. Whoever embarked on a policy of that sort, he said, and ventilated the matter thoroughly would confer a lasting boon on everybody concerned. [Ulysses, Chapter 16]
    There looks to be only one occurrence in Finnegans Wake, in whirl of cockeyed idioms:
    We just are upsidedown singing what ever the dimkims mummur allalilty she pulls inner out heads. This is not the end of this by no manners means. When you’ve bled till you’re bone it crops out in your flesh. To tell how your mead of, mard, is made of. [373:33ff]

  4. Sorry, I think Moore was English. Confused him for a moment with George A. Moore, Irish novelist.

  5. Reminds me of “in no way, shape, or form”, which is, as far as I know, just an amiably redundant emphatic form. (“No way or shape” could possible point to two different ideas, I suppose, but I dowbt that it really ever did.)

  6. i learned at as BY NO MANNOR OR MEANS

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