To a T

So “to a T,” meaning “just right,” is actually a shortened form of “to a tittle,” meaning that something is correct down to the smallest point. And when we say “jot and tittle,” also meaning “to the smallest detail,” we are, yes, being a bit redundant, since “jot” and “tittle” mean the same thing. But while our refrigerator magnets may declare “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” the truth is that, as Goldilocks discovered, perfection consists of getting the jots, tittles and iotas just right.

Page 2 of 2 | Previous page

4 comments on this post.
  1. OwenKL:

    A bit of folk etymology, I suppose, but I had thought that in “jot & tittle” that one was specifically the dot on the lowercase i, and the other specifically the crossbar on the t. Possibly a variation “dot and tilde”.

  2. Herbert:

    I see a year has passed since, but for future reference for anybody, New Testament Matthew 5 verses 17 to 18, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled, E&OE. If anyone can find any earlier reference, I shall keep looking.

  3. Anthony Jones:

    . . . and that would date from the time of King James, no doubt!

  4. Jim Jordan:

    The origins do go farther back. The “jot” is derived, not from the Greek “Iota”, but the Hebrew letter “Yud”, which is similar in look to an apostrophe, and forms the sound that is similar to a sharp “e” (the Mediterranean “I”), or a “y”. The “Yud” is found in most words that have some reference to God in the Torah and is generally pronounced “Yah”, such as “Yahweh” (which is spelled “Yud Heh Vav Heh”). Of course, we have no Hebrew text of Matthew, which is why we have the “iota” from the Greek text. As to what might have been said regarding the “tittle” in Hebrew is unclear. The reference appears to refer to diacritical marks, but they were not actually used in the writing of the Torah.

Leave a comment