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2 Mar. When to use the English expression “to steal one’s thunder.”

This English expression is fairly commonly used in written and spoken English though is a little outdated.


The idiom is used to denote the act of taking the credit for something which somebody else did. It is used to suggest the taking of someone’s ideas for a personal advantage.


The idiom has a theatrical origin in that it was first coined by playwright John Dennis. He created a new way for the sound of thunder to be produced during his play Appius and Virginia but ultimately this play failed. After the failure of this play it is reported that he went to see a production of Macbeth in which they had copied his method of producing the sound of thunder and thus he is quoted in the 1893 publication Literary Curiosities to have said “Damn them! They will not let my play run, but they steal my thunder.”


An example of the usage of this expression can be found in a quote by author of The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, Jerome Charyn who stated “Some readers may be disturbed that I wrote ‘The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson’ in Emily’s own voice. I wasn’t trying to steal her thunder or her music. I simply wanted to imagine my way into the head and heart of Emily Dickinson.”

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