13 Common Idioms with Scriptural Roots



It’s no secret that the English language is “chock full” of idioms, short figurative expressions we use to “paint a picture” with our words. But what may surprise you is that some of the most common idioms we use have scriptural roots. This week we share 13 of our favorites. See how many of these references you already knew!


A two-edged sword
Now used in reference to something with both positive and negative consequences, this expression was used in ancient and modern day scriptures referring to God’s word, as in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.” (See also Proverbs 5:4; Revelation 2:12; D&C 6:2)

Another one bites the dust
We’re all probably most familiar with this phrase from Queen’s 1980 hit song, but it is actually derived from Psalms 72:9, “They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust.”

Go the extra mile
We often hear this phrase when people make more of an effort than is expected of them in executing some responsibility, usually in a work setting. It stems from Christ’s “Sermon on the Mount” as he discussed how to serve others: Matthew 5:41, “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”



A leopard can't change his spots
Meaning that people cannot change their natures, no matter how hard they try, this expression was likely first recorded in Jeremiah 13:23, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?”

A man (or woman) after my own heart
People commonly use this phrase to refer to a kindred spirit, or someone who shares some belief, attitude, or feature with them. It comes from the Old Testament, where the Lord rejects King Saul and chooses David to replace him as captain over His people: 1 Samuel 13:14, “…the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people...” (See also Acts 13:22)

Scapegoat
We use this to refer to someone who is blamed for something, usually unjustly. It actually makes reference to the sacrificial goats used as sin offerings in the Law of Moses, as in Leviticus 16:10, “But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.”




At my wits’ end!
Used when someone has reached the end of his or her emotional or mental limitations, in scripture it is found in Psalms 107:27, “They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end.”

See eye to eye
Meaning that two people agree with each other, this expression comes from Isaiah 52:8, “Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.”

The blind leading the blind
Used when a leader of some kind knows as little as their followers, the original text adds further imagery about the likely consequence: Matthew 15:14, “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”




The writing’s on the wall
People use this when they perceive some outcome as inevitable or anticipate something bad is about to happen. It makes reference to the incident in the book of Daniel, where a hand writes on King Belshazzar’s palace wall, foretelling his downfall, Daniel 5:5, “In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace…”

The apple of my eye
This expression refers to someone or something cherished above all others, in scripture it references Jacob (or Israel) as God’s chosen servant, Deuteronomy 32:10, “He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.”


By the skin of your teeth
Meaning “narrowly” or “barely” and usually used in regard to a narrow escape from a disaster, it was probably first used by Job, who suffered great trials and narrowly escaped from death: Job 19:20, “My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.”

Fight the good fight
Used when someone fights for a noble cause, especially in the face of overwhelming odds, it originally referred to fighting for the greatest cause of all—the Lord’s work of salvation: 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.”


Joseph Harrison is the proud father of an adorable little girl (with two more on the way!) and the husband of an incredible and accomplished wife. He has a bachelor's degree in business administration and worked for several years in management consulting before coming to Texas A&M, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in strategic management. His passions include his family, the scriptures, serving others, teaching, and college football. His favorite teams include Clemson and Texas A&M Go Tigers & Gig 'em Ags! 
 

1 comment

  1. Hello Joseph, I just loved to read your this post about idioms with scriptural roots, it's really nice.
    I always love to read and teach idioms. Thank you for your great work, keep it up.
    Lilly, UK
    http://idioms.in/

    ReplyDelete