what does "the emperor has no clothes" mean?

23 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    The Emperor's New Clothes is a Danish fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen and first published in 1837, as part of Eventyr, Fortalte for Born (Fairy Tales, Told for Children). It was originally known as Keiserens Nye Klæder.

    Plot synopsis

    Many years ago there lived an emperor who cared only about his clothes and about showing them off. One day he heard from two swindlers that they could make the finest suit of clothes from the most beautiful cloth. This cloth, they said, also had the special capability that it was invisible to anyone who was either stupid or not fit for his position.

    Being a bit nervous about whether he himself would be able to see the cloth, the emperor first sent two of his trusted men to see it. Of course, neither would admit that they could not see the cloth and so praised it. All the townspeople had also heard of the cloth and were interested to learn how stupid their neighbors were.

    The emperor then allowed himself to be dressed in the clothes for a procession through town, never admitting that he was too unfit and stupid to see what he was wearing. For he was afraid that the other people would think that he was stupid.

    Of course, all the townspeople wildly praised the magnificent clothes of the emperor, afraid to admit that they could not see them, until a small child said:

    "But he has nothing on"!

    This was whispered from person to person until everyone in the crowd was shouting that the emperor had nothing on. The emperor heard it and felt that they were correct, but held his head high and finished the procession.


    It has been claimed that Andersen's original source was a Spanish story recorded by Don Juan Manuel (1282-1348).


    This story of the little boy puncturing the pretensions of the emperor's court has parallels from other cultures, categorized as Aarne-Thompson folktale type 1620.

    The expressions The Emperor's new clothes and The Emperor has no clothes are often used with allusion to Andersen's tale. Most frequently, the metaphor involves a situation wherein the overwhelming (usually unempowered) majority of observers willingly share in a collective ignorance of an obvious fact, despite individually recognising the absurdity. A similar twentieth-century metaphor is the Elephant in the room.

    The story is also used to express a concept of "truth seen by the eyes of a child", an idea that truth is often spoken by a person too naïve to understand group pressures to see contrary to the obvious. This is a general theme of "purity within innocence" throughout Andersen's fables and many similar works of literature.

    "The Emperor Wears No Clothes" or "The Emperor Has No Clothes" is often used in political and social contexts for any obvious truth denied by the majority despite the evidence of their eyes, especially when proclaimed by the government. Amazon.com alone lists 17 works with one of these two phrases in the title, and this ignores political magazine articles and non-mainstream authors

  • 4 years ago

    The Emperor Has No Clothes

  • Anonymous
    4 years ago

    Emperor Definition

  • 1 decade ago

    This expression comes from a children's story in which a couple of con artists tell the emperor that they can make him a suit of clothing that only those worthy of their station can truly see. The emperor can't see the clothes they are supposedly making and fears he isn't worthy of his station in life. The people around him can't see the clothes but don't want to admit it because that would mean they weren't worthy. Nobody will tell the emperor that the clothes don't exist until during a parade a child looks up and sees the emperor has no clothes and says it out loud because the child is not afraid of what others will think of him for saying it. Once it is said out loud then others, including the emperor acknowledge the truth.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Comes from the children's tale where the emperor has a tailor that gets paid with gold to tailor him invisible clothes, but the tailor convinces the emperor the clothes are nice and beautiful while he goes naked around. But as he is the emperor no one dares to tell him the truth.

    Means someone is thinking something which is not really happening.

    Source(s): Popular knowledge
  • 7 years ago

    Old question, but I'll give a simple answer.

    An "emperor with no clothes" is basically something that everyone or the majority of people accept as true, but deep down you know that it isn't.

  • 1 decade ago

    The parable involved the emperor who had a special tailor. He was producing a suit of clothing that only special people could appreciate...so of course no one including the king was willing to say they did see anything. The king with his new suit of clothes marched down the street thinking he had a special suit of clothing that those who were special could really appreciate. In reality he was naked.

    It saying just because someone says so, doesn't make it true. It also speaks to prideful behavior.

  • 1 decade ago

    It's a tail: The Emperor had no clothes on but everyone told him how fantastic he looked in all his robes and crowns, etc... One day a child saw him a yelled, "the emperor has no clothes." He has told the truth where as the others were too scared and did not want to offend the emperor, who only wanted to impress.

  • Anonymous
    4 years ago

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  • 4 years ago


  • 4 years ago

    You guys are mixing up two different books. The question was regarding "The Emperor has NO clothes" (which is a book discrediting and exposing traditional cancer treatment in the US) and not the fairytale, "The Emperor has NEW clothes".

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