Put two and two together (phrase) definition and synonyms

I used the phrase, "She put two và two together..." the other day và, shortly after saying, wondered about its origin. My understanding is that it means lớn "connect the dots" or khổng lồ figure the answer to lớn a question, but I"m uncertain why "put two and two together" became a synonym.

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My guess is that it originally had a longer size, like, "She put two và two together to get four," but that the "khổng lồ get four" part has fallen out of usage.


A query by "put two and two together" on the COHA (1810s-2000s) shows that the phrase appeared in sentences without a longer khung since 1848 at least (1848 is the year of the first result). There are occurrences of a longer form "put two and two together và make four". It"s not clear whether the shorter khung derived from the longer size, but I"d say that your hypothesis makes sense.



The earliest uses I can find are 1816 và 18trăng tròn and include the four.

Here"s Charles Taylor in 1816, in Facts & evidences on the subject of Baptism in three additional letters:

How slightly vị some very good people read their Bibles! — .The Scripture is plain enough, to proper attention. Any who can put two and two together, to lớn make four, may, and indeed must underst& it.

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Here"s William Cobbett in 1820, in Cobbett"s Weekly Political Register: Volume 36:

I am no lawyer, & if it were possible, still less of a conjuror, but, being able to put two và two together, and to ascertain that they make four; being able lớn arrive sầu at this conclusion, with mathematical certainty ...

And even more interesting, from the same volume:

My opinions have not often been contradicted by events ; and my decided opinion is, that, when you and your colleagues have carefully put two & two together ; và then put a one to lớn the four, & by the total have sầu multiplied twenty, the result will show you that it would much better not khổng lồ proceed with the trial any more than with the Coronation.

Both from very similar times.

It"s interesting to lớn find some instances of putting two & two together in a literal sense, such as this 1820 example of how khổng lồ pot & collar eels in The practice of cookery, pastry, confectionary, pickling, preserving, &c By Frazer (mrs.)

After taking off the skin, split them down from the shoulder lớn the tail, và bone them ; season them highly with salt, spices, và sweet herbs ; then put two & two together, with the shoulder of the one to lớn the tail of the other;