die » dye

Chiefly in:   the dye is cast

Classification: English – idiom-related

Spotted in the wild:

  • “The dye is cast. The people will speak and I am hoping that the outcome will be an MDC victory,” he told reporters. (CNN, March 31, 2005)
  • Once the PR and marketing dye is cast, what’s a creative person to do? (OzOnline)
  • There are dead suns, smoldering suns, and lit suns, and the dye is cast in this matter when the suns are first formed. (ZetaTalk, Jul 15, 1995)
  • No, the media will make sure that the public knows good and well who Wes Clark is by the time the dye is cast. (Pipeline, blog entry, September 16, 2003)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Tom Rossen (via Mark Liberman, in e-mail)

Rarer, maybe, than the reinterpetation of _the die is cast_ as referring to moulds and molten metal, this eggcorn is nonetheless genuinely present for some people. On the _Phrase Finder_ site, a poster writes:

> “Die is cast” as in throwing dice, I presume. I always thought it was “dye is cast” as in coloring something. Oh, well.

| link | entered by Chris, 2005/10/14 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by Sean Miller , 2005/11/10 at 9:01 am

    “But once the dye had been cast, there was no washing it out.” (Mercury News, Nov 9, 2005)

  2. 2

    Commentary by Marie , 2006/03/23 at 1:34 pm

    I was looking for the “correct” form of this expression, since each homonym for “die/dye” and the homograph “die/die” has some logic to it, but there are some subtle differences in their flavor. All contain the suggestion that there is an irrevocable step take (as in crossing the Rubicon); however, the “die is cast” as in one of a pair of dice still invokes a kind of chance outcome; the “dye is cast” as in putting coloring into the water suggests an inevitable outcome; the “die is cast” as in a mold and the pouring of molten metal suggests the first step in a process towards a finished product. The applicability of the idiom depends very much in this case on how it is spelled, or on what kind of “die” is intended. Does anyone know the derivation of the expression?

  3. 3

    Commentary by Chris Waigl , 2006/03/26 at 7:12 am

    @Marie: There is no doubt that the original derives from casting dice. The citation attributed to Julius Caesar: Alea iacta est.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.