Holy Moly, Batman!
By Rocky Reichman
When you Google a phrase like holy cow, you get
about 8,380,000 results but for holy moly you get a mere 492,000. Why is that? Could it be holy moly is
just a rare phrase? Where does holy moly originate from?
One possibility for its origin is from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, which
has Holy as being from Old English halig, meaning: "dedicated to a religious purpose, spiritually revered."
Moly, as defined by Webster’s New World Dictionary, means either
“a) in mythology, an herb of magic powers as in Homer’s Odyssey or, b) a wild, garlic like [sic] European plant
(Alium moly) of the lily family.”
Therefore, it is possible that by labeling this mythical herb (moly) with magical powers,
people began calling it holy moly, and it later was used adjectivally to denote something extraordinary.
Another possibility for its origin according to Words@ Random, the Maven's Word, is
from the Captain Marvel comics in the early 1940's.
"Holy moly was a exclamation of the character ‘Captain Marvel,’
(comic books first written by Bill Parker and C. C. Beck in 1940). Holy moly is a reduplicated rhyming compound (compare
killer-diller, legal eagle, and others), probably intended as a euphemistic alternative to holy moses, used as an oath.”
A New York Times reporter who once wrote, “... words like ‘holy moly,’
‘holy moses,’ ‘horsefeathers …’ don't say ‘holy smoke!"
Both of the above origins for holy moly are plausible, but as far as placing
holy moly in our lexicon, Captain Marvel has done a marvelous job!