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"There is no love lost between them." means "they are at odds." but I'd like to know what the etymology of the idiom is. It seems to mean the opposite thing without the knowledge of what it really means.
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It just means "There isn't any love lost between them". It is a rhythmic structure that sounds well. I don't think you can say that there is a specific or identifiable etymology for the sentence, it is very common and can certainly be traced back in literature for at least two hundred years.
Imagine a bucket that would be filled with love (as if it were milk or water, or any liquid). If some got spilled (lost), it wouldn't really matter, for the bucket would still be full of it.

Now if there's not much love in the bucket, and some got lost/spilled, it would be a problem, because there would be as much less in the bucket - you would miss the spilled part.

Well, that's the way I understand it!
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Hi,

There is no love lost between them." means "they are at odds." but I'd like to know what the etymology of the idiom is. It seems to mean the opposite thing without the knowledge of what it really means.

I don't see it as a matter of etymology. I think it's a question of understanding the meaning clearly.

They dislike each other absolutely, completely.

Any love, even a tiny amount, that was between them would be wasted, ie 'lost'. But there is not even a tiny amount of love between them, so 'there is no love wasted (ie lost) between them'.

Best wishes, Clive

I think the etymology is uncertain, but it seems to be a sort of sarcastic understatement. My understanding is that the phrase, "love lost" started to appear in the late 16th Century.

For instance, in Wuthering Heights, if Catherine and Heathcliff had not been in love, there would have been no "love lost" in the fact that circumstances and societal constraints kept them apart.

But there obviously WAS "love lost," and therein is the dramatic tension.

The phrase seems to literally mean apathy--but is colloquially used to indicate active dislike.
I agree with you. It seems to mean the opposite, and I believe I heard it used in this opposite sense in a play The Perilous Streets of Los Angeles (Parson's Nose) and I wanted to find the etymology, but all I could find was your question.

My email is [address removed by moderator. Contact information can only be in registered members' profiles] If you have found the etymology, let me know.
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You may find this explanation interesting, although it doesn't give a definitive origin for the phrase.

http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/13/messages/246.html
This idiom has bothered me from the moment I heard it for that reason. "There was no love found" clearly implies a lack of love. How does "There was no love lost between them" imply the same? Only through context clues does it seem to make sense.

It's all about the hidden implication I guess. "There was no love lost" because there was clearly never any love to begin with. "There was no love found" because all love already has been. I'm lukewarm about it now.
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