frog in the well

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Sat Feb 23 23:05:29 UTC 2013

I don't see "frog in the well" in the OED or Bartlett's. 

Wiktionary (,_two_steps_back) says that "one step forward, two steps back" comes from '"two steps forward, one step back" which originates with an anecdote about a frog in a well.'

The earliest citation on Google Books I see is "Poems, upon several subjects" in 1818 (, which says, 'Nor have we forgotten the "Frog in the Well."'

"The poetry of travelling in the United States" in 1838 ( says: "We shall have no thoroughly instructed women while schools are so fluctuating; the progress of a girl's education in most of our cities, is like the frog's in the well."

In 1893, "The Unitarian" (volume 8) ( carries the story of the frog in the well, though it might be a different one.

Wiktionary has the Japanese and ( and the Chinese equivalents (

Benjamin Barrett
Seattle, WA
The American Dialect Society -

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