Genie in the Lamp Origin Origin of Genies

The surprising origin of the ‘genie is out of the bottle’ saying

You’ve probably heard the saying “the genie is out of the bottle” or “let the genie out of the bottle” a few times. While the meaning is pretty clear, you might be shocked to learn the origins of the phrase don’t have a lot to do with real genies (or djinn), but with something more…destructive.

What does the phrase mean?

The phrase “the genie is out of the bottle” is a metaphor used to describe something that has been released and is now impossible to contain. It’s similar to saying “let the cat out of the bag” or “you can’t unring a bell,” but with added meaning of dire circumstances or destruction.

In many stories about genies people would find lamps or bottles, pop them open and a powerful spirit would be set free. Once emerged the genie wouldn’t go willingly back into the bottle—they had to be forced, or more likely, tricked. This was usually the goal of the story, as genies are known to delight in being mischievous, even when it harms those who freed them from the bottle, and once that spirit is set loose nobody wants to deal with them.

For a classic example about trickster genies not wanting to be put back in their bottles, read the free story from Arabian Nights, the Fisherman and the Genie.

Origin of the genie is out of the bottle saying

As we know from the origin of genies post, genies themselves (or jinn as they’re actually called) are thousands of years old. They have appeared in countless stories throughout the Arabic-speaking world for centuries, and once the Arabian Nights book appeared in Europe in the 1700s, the Western world caught genie fever.

Surprisingly, the saying “the genie’s out of the bottle” doesn’t come from that era, nor anywhere near it. The idiom is a modern invention. The earliest recorded usage of “the genie is out of the bottle” dates back to the late 1860s, though it wasn’t a popular thing to say. It wasn’t until the 1960s that it caught on as a way to describe the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The Vengeful Djinn: Unveiling the Hidden Agenda of Genies

If you fear one thing in life, fear the djinn. This book takes a paranormal/supernatural angle on genies as it investigates jinn in all their forms–along with their hidden agenda against the human race.

Here, the genie and the bottle refers to nuclear warfare. If one side used a warhead, the other side would retaliate in kind. This would continue to escalate with no end in sight. In other words, if the “genie” that was firing a nuclear warhead was let out of the bottle, there was no putting it back in.

Popularity of genies and bottles

One theory why this phrase became so popular in the 1960s was the TV show I Dream of Jeannie was on the air at the same time. More people in the U.S. knew what genies were and had them on their mind, so the phrase was both an apt way to describe the Cold War situation and a snapshot of popular culture at the time.

After the 1960s the phrase ‘let the genie out of the bottle’ remained in the cultural lexicon. It actually grew in popularity all the way to the present day, partly because genies themselves have become a fixture in modern media thanks to TV, movies, and video games.