Have you ever heard someone say, “Blood is thicker than water,” and wondered what they really meant?
Family idioms are more than just words; they’re windows into the intricate, emotional world of family life and relationships. These phrases, used across generations and cultures, offer a glimpse into the values, expectations, and humor that families share.
Join us as we explore the rich and colorful tapestry of idioms about family!
Family Relations and Characteristics
1. Blood is thicker than water
Family relationships are stronger and more important than friendships. People often prioritize their family members over others, even when there are disagreements within the family.
2. The black sheep of the family
Someone who is very different from the other members of their family. This person often causes embarrassment or is less successful than the rest of the family.
3. A chip off the old block
A child resembles one of their parents in terms of appearance, behavior, or character. The child inherited some distinctive qualities of their parent.
4. Like father, like son
A son who has similar characteristics, behaviors, or qualities as his father. It is used to comment on the resemblance between them.
5. Like mother, like daughter
A daughter who has similar characteristics, behaviors, or qualities as her mother. It is used to highlight the similarity between them.
6. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
A child who is very similar to their parents in terms of behavior or characteristics. This idiom is used to say that children often resemble their parents.
7. Family ties are the ties that bind
Family connections are very strong. Just like ropes or cords, these ties hold us close. Our bond with our family is deep and important. We often feel a special connection to our family members.
8. One’s flesh and blood
A way to describe someone who is a direct family member, such as a child, parent, or sibling. It emphasizes the deep connection between close relatives.
9. Branches of the same tree
People who are part of the same family. This idiom symbolizes that although family members may be different, they all come from the same origin.
10. Kith and kin
“Kith” refers to friends or acquaintances, while “kin” means family members. Together, they represent a person’s close circle of trusted individuals. When someone mentions “kith and kin,” they’re talking about people close to their heart.
11. Family comes first
The belief is that family is the most important and should be prioritized over other parts of life, such as work or friends.
12. My brother’s keeper
It refers to the responsibility one feels for the well-being of others, especially family or close friends. When someone asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” they’re questioning if they should look out for and protect others. Taking care of and supporting loved ones is the main idea behind this saying.
Family Roles and Responsibilities
1. To wear the trousers in the family
In a family, the person who wears the trousers makes the decisions and has control. This phrase often refers to a situation where one member of a couple has more authority than the other.
2. To be the breadwinner
The breadwinner is the person in the family who earns the money to support everyone else. This person has a job or career that pays for the family’s living expenses, including food, housing, and other needs.
3. Lifeblood of the family
The lifeblood of the family is the person who is considered essential for the family’s well-being and happiness. This person holds the family together, providing emotional, physical, or financial support, and is deeply valued by the other members.
4. Wear the pants in the family
This means to be the person who makes decisions and has authority within the family, traditionally implying the role of the father or husband, though not exclusively.
5. Spitting an image of someone
When someone is the spitting image of a family member, it means they look very similar or identical to that person, often used for parent-child resemblances.
6. Hold the fort
To take responsibility, especially in maintaining the household or taking care of family matters in someone’s absence.
Family Conflicts and Secrets
1. Skeletons in the closet
Some families have secrets that they want to keep hidden. These secrets, often referred to as skeletons in the closet, could be past mistakes, shameful events, or embarrassing situations that family members don’t want others to know about.
2. A house divided against itself cannot stand
This idiom emphasizes that a family that is in constant conflict will not be able to sustain itself. For a family to thrive and prosper, members need to cooperate and live in harmony, not constantly fighting with each other.
3. Bad blood
When there is bad blood between family members, it means there is a long-standing, deep-seated conflict or animosity between them. This could be due to past disagreements, betrayals, or hurtful actions that have led to unfriendly relations.
4. At each other’s throats
When family members are at each other’s throats, they are arguing or fighting very intensely. This suggests a level of conflict that is aggressive and fierce, and the situation between the family members is highly strained.
5. To drive a wedge between
This phrase describes an action or situation that causes family members to become hostile towards each other, creating a division between them. Someone might intentionally create problems, spread rumors, or behave in a way that pushes family members apart.
6. To be in someone’s good books
When a family member is in someone’s good books, they are highly regarded or favored by that person. For example, a child who has done all their chores might be in their parent’s good books and, as a result, might receive special treatment or rewards.
7. Don’t air your dirty laundry in public
This phrase advises against publicly discussing or revealing private family matters and conflicts. The idea is to solve family problems privately rather than expose them to people outside the family, as this could bring shame or embarrassment.
Family Unity and Love
1. Keep it in the family
This phrase suggests that certain matters, possessions, or knowledge should remain within the confines of the family. For example, a family might decide to pass a business from generation to generation, ensuring it stays within their line.
2. In the family way
When someone is in the family way, they are expecting a baby. This is a gentle and somewhat old-fashioned way of saying that a woman is pregnant. It hints at the growing family and the love and anticipation that comes with a new baby.
3. Living under the same roof
This describes a situation where family members live together in the same house or home. They share daily life, experiences, and responsibilities, highlighting their close and interconnected relationships.
4. One big happy family
This phrase paints a picture of a family that lives in harmony, love, and contentment. In this family, members care deeply for each other, enjoy each other’s company, and resolve conflicts in a healthy way, portraying an ideal family dynamic.
5. A match made in heaven
When a couple is described as a match made in heaven, it means they are perfectly suited for each other. Their relationship is strong and loving and appears to be destined or divinely ordained, symbolizing the deep love and harmony between them.
6. A family that prays together stays together
This saying emphasizes the belief that a family who shares their faith and prays together will have a strong, enduring relationship. It suggests that spirituality and shared faith practices can be a cornerstone of family unity and love.
7. Bring someone into the fold
To bring someone into the fold means to make them a part of the family or a close-knit group. This could happen through marriage, adoption, or forming a close bond with someone, showing acceptance, and treating them as a beloved family member.
Marriage and Partnerships
1. Married into money
When someone marries for money, they have married a person who is wealthy. This marriage might be viewed as a way for one partner to gain financial security. It does not necessarily imply that the marriage is only for money; the couple might also be in love.
2. Sleep in separate beds
When a couple sleeps in separate beds, they choose not to share the same bed, even though they are in a relationship. This might be due to personal preferences, health reasons, or relationship problems.
It doesn’t necessarily mean the relationship is in trouble; some couples are very happy and choose this arrangement for comfort.
3. Kissin’ cousins
Kissin’ cousins refer to relatives who are close enough to be familiar but distant enough that it’s acceptable for them to show affection. In a broader sense, it can also describe two people who are closely related by blood or marriage but not close enough to be immediate family.
4. Redheaded stepchild
This phrase is used to describe someone who is treated less favorably than others in a family. It reflects the outdated and incorrect stereotype that stepchildren, and specifically those with red hair, were treated differently or unfairly compared to biological children.
5. Start a family
To start a family means that a couple decides to have children. This is a significant step in a partnership, indicating a desire to raise children together. It might involve having biological children, adopting, or becoming a blended family through marriage.
Family Origins and Background
1. Born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth
Someone who is born with a silver spoon in their mouth comes from a wealthy family. This person likely enjoys privileges and advantages because of their family’s wealth. They might not have to work hard for basic needs or comforts in life.
2. Born and bred
When someone is born and bred in a place, they were born there and grew up there. It suggests a deep connection with that place, and often, the person’s character reflects the culture and traditions of that area.
3. Born to the purple
Someone who is born to the purple is born into a very high social or noble class. This person usually belongs to a royal or noble family. The term originates from the purple robes worn by Roman emperors.
4. From the wrong side of the tracks
When someone is from the wrong side of the tracks, they come from a poor or less respected part of town. This phrase often suggests that others look down on this person because of where they come from, even though that judgment may be unfair.
5. From rags to riches
A person who goes from rags to riches has risen from poverty to wealth. The phrase emphasizes the dramatic transformation in that person’s life. It often implies hard work, luck, or a combination of both to achieve this success.
Home and Living Situation
1. A house is not a home
A house refers to the physical building where people live, but a home is where people feel loved, comfortable, and safe. This phrase emphasizes that emotional warmth and family presence turn a mere building into a cherished living space.
2. Home is where the heart is
This phrase expresses the idea that your home is wherever you are deeply attached or wherever your loved ones are. It could be a place you grew up, where your family lives, or where you feel you belong, regardless of the physical structure.
3. Behind closed doors
This phrase refers to what happens in private, usually within a family or a household, that outsiders don’t see. It’s a reminder that people often keep their true selves or situations hidden from public view, and many things happen in private that others are not aware of.
4. House of cards
A house of cards refers to a situation that is unstable and can fall apart easily, just like a stack of playing cards can fall with a slight breeze. In the context of a living situation, it might refer to a family or household that appears stable but has underlying issues that could cause it to collapse suddenly.
Expressions and Sayings
1. Old wives’ tale
An old wives’ tale is a traditional belief or story that is generally considered to be unscientific or incorrect. People often follow these tales as if they are true, even though they aren’t based on facts.
2. Put to bed with a shovel
This phrase refers to concealing or ending a matter abruptly, often because of a scandal or to avoid further embarrassment or controversy. It’s a way of saying that something is completely finished or hidden away.
3. A face only a mother could love
This phrase is used to describe someone who is not very attractive. It humorously suggests that only a mother could find this person appealing due to her unconditional love.
4. Bury the hatchet
To bury the hatchet means to make peace and end a conflict or argument, usually with a family member or close friend. It’s about letting go of past disagreements and moving forward.
5. The prodigal son
This phrase refers to someone who leaves their family or home, often acting irresponsibly, but eventually returns and is warmly welcomed back. It originates from a biblical story.
6. The prodigal daughter
Like the prodigal son, the prodigal daughter refers to a woman who leaves, behaves recklessly, but later returns to her family, who welcomes her back.
7. The Cinderella of the family
This person is treated less well than others in the same family, often having to do a lot of work. The phrase comes from the Cinderella fairy tale, where she was mistreated by her family.
8. Olive branch
Offering an olive branch means making a gesture of peace or reconciliation. It’s an act of extending goodwill to resolve a disagreement or conflict.
9. Rotten apple
A rotten apple is a person who is considered bad or corrupt within a group and whose actions might affect the entire group negatively.
10. Sow wild oats
To sow wild oats refers to a period of youthful and often irresponsible behavior where a person might engage in various adventures or activities before settling down.
11. Go to the ends of the earth
To go to the ends of the earth means to do whatever it takes, no matter how much effort is required, to accomplish a goal or to find someone or something.
12. Like two peas in a pod
People who are like two peas in a pod are very similar, often in appearance but also in habits or characteristics.
13. To rule the roost
To rule the roost means to be in charge or to have control, often in a household or family setting.
14. A wolf in sheep’s clothing
This phrase describes a person who seems friendly and kind but is actually deceptive and harmful.
15. Birds of a feather flock together
This saying means that people with similar interests or characteristics will often spend time with each other.
16. Cut from the same cloth
People who are cut from the same cloth are very similar in nature or character, often used to describe family members with shared traits.
17. An offer one can’t refuse
This phrase refers to a proposal or deal that is so good that it is almost impossible to say no to it.
18. The salt of the earth
People described as the salt of the earth are considered honest, good, and hardworking.
19. The apple of one’s eye
This phrase refers to someone who is very dear to another person, often a child who is deeply loved by a parent.
20. The straw that broke the camel’s back
This phrase means the small, final event that makes a situation unbearable after a series of previous events.
21. Keep up with the Joneses
To keep up with the Joneses means to try to match the lifestyle of one’s neighbors or friends, often by buying similar material possessions.
22. Raise eyebrows
To raise eyebrows means to do something that is surprising, shocking, or disapproving to others.
23. Take someone under your wing
To take someone under your wing means to protect, care for, or mentor them, often when they are inexperienced or need guidance.
24. To walk on eggshells
Walking on eggshells means being extremely careful in one’s actions or words to avoid upsetting someone or creating a problem.
Wealth and Prosperity
1. Bring home the bacon
When someone brings home the bacon, they are earning money to support their family. This person is often the main income earner, providing the necessary funds for the family to live comfortably. This phrase emphasizes the responsibility and role of providing for one’s family.
2. On easy street
This idiom means living a life with financial security and no worries about money, often used to describe a family that has achieved considerable wealth and comfort.
3. Penny-wise and pound-foolish
This phrase cautions against being overly careful with small amounts of money while being wasteful or careless with larger sums, relevant in family budgeting and spending.
4. Born under a lucky star
To be naturally fortunate, often in terms of wealth or financial opportunities. It suggests that a family or individual has an innate advantage in achieving prosperity.
Reconciliation and Peace
1. Offer an olive branch
To offer an olive branch means to extend a gesture or offer that shows a willingness to end a conflict or dispute with another person. It’s a symbol of peace, suggesting that the person wants to resolve a disagreement and restore a harmonious relationship.
This phrase comes from ancient customs where an olive branch was a symbol of peace or goodwill.
2. Clear the air
To remove misunderstandings or bad feelings. In family terms, it means having open discussions to resolve issues and restore peace.
3. Let bygones be bygones
This idiom suggests forgetting past conflicts or grievances and moving on, emphasizing the importance of focusing on the present and future for family harmony.
4. Wipe the slate clean
This means starting anew forgetting past mistakes or disagreements. It’s about giving family members a chance to begin again without holding grudges.
5. Build bridges
Building bridges is about creating connections or restoring relationships. In a family, it involves efforts to improve communication and understanding.
6. Smooth ruffled feathers
This means to calm down someone who is upset or to alleviate tensions. It’s about restoring peace and harmony in a family setting.
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