To give oneself mighty airs: to assume, in manner, appearance,
and tone, a superiority to which you have no claim. The same as
Air, manner (q.v.).
The plural is essential in this case to take it out of the category
of mere eccentricity, or to distinguish it from “air” in the sense of
deportment, as “he had a fine, manly air,” “in air was that of a
gentleman.” Air, in the singular, being generally complimentary, but
“airs” in the plural always conveying censure. In Italian, we find the
phrase, Si da dell árie.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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