Blood is thicker than water

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In modern society, the proverb "blood is thicker than water" is used to imply that family relationships are always more important than friends.


The equivalent proverb in German (originally: Blut ist dicker als Wasser), first appeared in a different form in the medieval German beast epic Reinhart Fuchs (c. 1180; English: Reynard the Fox) by Heinrich der Glîchezære. The XIII-century Heidelberg manuscript reads in part, "ouch hoerich sagen, das suppebluot von wazzer niht verdirbet" (lines 265-266). In English we read, "I also hear it said, kin-blood is not spoiled by water."

In 1412, the English priest John Lydgate observed in Troy Book, "For naturally blood will be of kind / Drawn-to blood, where he may it find."

By 1670, the modern version was included in John Ray's collected Proverbs,[1] and later appeared in Sir Walter Scott's novel Guy Mannering (1815): "Weel — Blud's [sic] thicker than water — she's welcome to the cheeses."[2] and in English reformer Thomas Hughes's Tom Brown's School Days (1857).

The phrase was first attested in the United States in Journal of Athabasca Department (1821)."[3] On June 25, 1859, U.S. Navy Commodore Josiah Tattnall, in command of the American Squadron in Far Eastern waters, made this adage a part of American history when explaining why he had given aid to the British squadron in an attack on Taku Forts at the mouth of the Pei Ho River, thereby infringing strict American neutrality.[citation needed]

Other interpretations[edit]

Authors Albert Jack[4] and R. Richard Pustelniak[5] claim the original meaning of the expression was that the ties between people who've made a blood covenant were stronger than ties formed by "the water of the womb".

Although not specifically related to the expression "blood is thicker than water", H.C. Trumbull notes an interesting comparison of blood and milk in the Arab world:

We, in the West, are accustomed to say that "blood is thicker than water" ; but the Arabs have the idea that blood is thicker than milk, than a mother's milk. With them, any two children nourished at the same breast are called "milk-brothers," or "sucking brothers"; and the tie between such is very strong. [..] But the Arabs hold that brothers in the covenant of blood are closer than brothers at a common breast; that those who have tasted each other's blood are in a surer covenant than those who have tasted the same milk together ; that "blood-lickers," as the blood-brothers are sometimes called, are more truly one than "milk-brothers," or "sucking brothers"; that, indeed, blood is thicker than milk, as well as thicker than water.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

More recently, Aldous Huxley's Ninth Philosopher's Song (1920) approached the proverb differently, stating, "Blood, as all men know, than water's thicker / But water's wider, thank the Lord, than blood."[7]

"Blood is thicker than water" is:

"Thicker than water" is:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hendrickson, Robert (1987). The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins. New York: Facts on File, Inc. ISBN 978-0-8160-1012-7. 
  2. ^ Rogers, James T. (1985). The Dictionary of Clichés. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-345-33814-3. 
  3. ^ Titelman, Gregory Y. (1996). Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0-679-44554-8. 
  4. ^ Jack, Albert (2005), Shaggy Dogs and Black Sheep: The Origins of Even More Phrases We Use Every Day, Penguin Books Ltd (UK), ISBN 978-0140515732 
  5. ^ Pustelniak, R. Richard (1994), "II. Terms", "How Shall I Know?" - The Blood Covenant, retrieved 2014-02-22 
  6. ^ Trumbull, H. Clay (1893), The Blood Covenant - A Primitive Rite And Its Bearings On Scripture (2nd ed.), Philadelphia: John D. Wattles, p. 10 ff. 
  7. ^ Flexner, Stuart & Doris (1993). Wise Words and Wives' Tales: The Origins, Meanings and Time-Honored Wisdom of Proverbs and Folk Sayings Olde and New. New York: Avon Books. p. 208. ISBN 978-0-380-76238-5. 
  8. ^ "Nu Jerzey Devil Mixtapes - Get It LIVE!". Retrieved 2016-05-07. 
  9. ^ "Alien Perspective Publishing - W. A. Hoffman". Retrieved 2016-05-07. 
  10. ^ Hoffman, Wynette A. (2002), Blood Is Thicker Than Water, Alien Perspective, ISBN 978-0972109802 
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 14, 2012. Retrieved February 25, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 7, 2014. Retrieved February 25, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Needles and Sins Tattoo Blog | Valentine's Day NYC Tattoo Specials!". Retrieved 2016-05-07. 
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 6, 2014. Retrieved February 25, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Thicker Than Water". Retrieved 2016-05-07. 

External links[edit]