Reap the whirlwind (phrase)

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Reap the whirlwind is a term derived from the proverbial phrase, "They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind", which in turn comes from the Book of Hosea in the Old Testament (Hosea 8-7). Its idiomatic meaning is to suffer the consequences of one's actions.[1]

Notable uses[edit]

The phrase was famously used by Arthur "Bomber" Harris in response to the Blitz of 1940 when he said:

The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everybody else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a hundred other places, they put that rather naïve theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now, they are going to reap the whirlwind.[2]

The phrase was also used by Norman Tebbit in a 1985 lecture when he condemned the permissive society, saying:

Bad art was as good as good art. Grammar and spelling were no longer important. To be clean was no better than to be filthy. Good manners were no better than bad. Family life was derided as an outdated bourgeois concept. Criminals deserved as much sympathy as their victims. Many homes and classrooms became disorderly – if there was neither right nor wrong there could be no basis for punishment or reward. Violence and soft pornography became accepted in the media. Thus was sown the wind; and we are now reaping the whirlwind.[3]

After the U.S. Senate passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act allowing the expansion of slavery into the western territories, James Pike of the New York Tribune warned the Southerners, "You are sowing the wind and you will reap the whirlwind..."[4]


  1. ^ Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. 2015. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  2. ^ Robin Cross, Fallen Eagle (London, John Wiley and Sons 1995), 78
  3. ^ Norman Tebbit, "Back to the old traditional values", The Guardian Weekly, 24 November 1985.
  4. ^ As quoted by Doris Kearns Goodwin in Team of Rivals, Simon & Schuster, 2005