The expression 'living the life of Riley' suggests an ideal life of prosperity and contentment, possibly living on someone else's money, time or work. The expression was popular in the 1880s, a time when James Whitcomb Riley's poems depicted the comforts of a prosperous home life.
However, the expression could have an Irish origin: after the Reilly clan consolidated its hold on County Cavan, they minted their own money, accepted as legal tender even in England. These coins, called “O'Reillys” and “Reilly's,” became synonymous with a monied person, and a gentleman freely spending was “living on his Reillys.
From the Ground
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