One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1Gain a knighthood by an act of bravery.
- ‘Aspiring knights will have to earn their spurs.’
- ‘By 1794 the average age of French generals was 33, and most of Napoleon's marshals won their spurs during this period.’
- 1.1informal Gain one's first distinction or honours.
- ‘But if you want to be an academic leader, a dean, a president, a provost, it's very important to win your spurs as a respected faculty member.’
- ‘This was, without question, the Shamrocks clubman's finest display since he first won his spurs with the squad.’
- ‘You've earned your spurs, you're in the union, you've got your license to practise…’
- ‘James had cut his teeth and earned his spurs and like father, like son, he has not been slow to court the Chinese.’
- ‘Before taking over a year ago as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, he earned his spurs as governor of Utah.’
- ‘Both bowlers earned their spurs on tours of the Caribbean.’
- ‘It was a way to earn their spurs as newscasters; to make household names out of their anchors and reporters; to inform their viewers; to serve the public interest.’
- ‘He has earned his spurs after time spent in business and corporate banking at a number of locations.’
- ‘Mr Scarlett has a strong following inside MI6 where he won his spurs on operations abroad, including as station chief in Moscow in the 1990s.’
- ‘Not that he hadn't already earned his spurs in the business.’
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