A chip off the old block is an idiom used to describe a person who possesses traits or characteristics reminiscent of their parents. Originally, it was typically their father, but has broadened to include both parental figures.
Idioms such as a chip off the old block are expressions or phrases that convey a figurative meaning beyond their literal interpretation. They are integral to the English language because they serve as colorful expressions that condense complex concepts into vivid phrases.
However, the meaning of idioms only hits when they’re used correctly. So, in this article, I’ll cover all the details of the idiom’s meaning, origin, and proper usage. I’ll also provide its variations, alternatives, and sentence examples. Let’s get started!
What Does the Idiom Chip off the Old Block Mean?
The idiom chip off the old block means that a person, usually a child, closely resembles or shares similar characteristics with one of their parents, typically the father. It’s an idiomatic expression that suggests a close similarity, usually in appearance, behavior, or both. It is also commonly used as a term of endearment or recognition of familial legacy.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines the idiom as “someone who is very similar in character to their father or mother.” Moreover, Collins Dictionary says, “If you describe someone as a chip off the old block, you mean that they are just like one of their parents in character or behavior.”
I could never relate to this idiom because I have absolutely nothing in common with either of my parents in terms of looks or personality. But now that I have children of my own and see myself in them, watch them develop an affinity for the arts, and hear my sarcasm in their words, I know they’re both a chip off the old block!
Literal Meaning vs Figurative Meaning
The literal meaning of a chip off the old block is a small piece of wood chipped from a larger block, implying that the smaller piece shares the same characteristics as the larger one.
But in the figurative sense, it’s used to express that a child is very much like their parent, inheriting traits or characteristics that make the resemblance uncanny or noteworthy.
Variations of the Idiom
A chip off the old block is probably the most recognized version, but there are some variations to consider.
- A chip of the same block
- A chip off the ol’ block
- A chip of the old block
- Chipped off the block
- A big chip off the old block
Each variation maintains the core meaning of close resemblance, especially in terms of qualities or attributes passed down through generations. It really depends on the context, regional preferences, and an overall understanding of the phrase.
How Is Chip off the Old Block Commonly Used in Context?
This idiom tends to be used in casual conversation, particularly when talking about family resemblances or the inheritance of particular traits or talents. Mostly, it’s a positive expression, but it can also be used negatively.
Understanding how to use this expression effectively can add a colorful and relatable dimension to your language. In the following sections, we will explore different ways to use chip off the old block, offer tips for its effective usage, and provide examples to illustrate its application in everyday communication.
What Are the Different Ways to Use the Idiom Chip off the Old Block?
- Describing family resemblances: When your child takes an interest in something you do. “He’s got his mother’s knack for storytelling—truly a chip off the old block, if you ask me.”
- Acknowledging inherited traits: If a child physically resembles their parent(s). “She’s as beautiful as her mother with those brown eyes and curly hair, a real chip off the old block.”
- Negatively: When a child takes on the same bad traits or behaviors as their parents. “I’m not surprised the boy got tangled up with drugs. He’s a real chip off the old block, if you know what I mean.”
What Are Some Tips for Using the Idiom Chip off the Old Block Effectively?
- Use it in a positive context, as it’s typically seen as a compliment or acknowledgment of positive traits.
- Be aware of cultural context, as the idiom might not translate directly in non-English speaking cultures.
- Ensure that the resemblance or trait being compared is clear to both the speaker and listener.
- Avoid using it in negative contexts to push judgments.
Where Can You Find Examples of the Idiom Chip off the Old Block?
This idiomatic expression is fairly prevalent in literature, film, and everyday language because we use it to express familial pride or acknowledgment of inherited traits.
The timeless 1944 film Chip Off the Old Block uses the idiom for the title. It’s also been the name of several songs throughout musical history, including the more modern track by Machine Gun Kelly.
The idiom has been quoted in the news and media more times than I can count, too. Here are just a few examples of it in use:
Animal lover Scott said Emily “was absolutely brilliant with the snake and a chip off the old block.” (The Mirror)
Some would argue that she is a chip off the old block – I would never profess to be any authority on pacing! (The Eastern Daily Press)
What Is the Origin of the Idiom Chip off the Old Block?
The idiom chip off the old block has been traced back to the 17th century, initially appearing in literature to describe sons who resembled their fathers in some significant way.
The term was originally rendered as a chip of the same block. It was first used in 1621 in Robert Sanderson’s Sermons, where it says, “Am not I a child of the same Adam … a chip of the same block, with him?” At this time, the phrase referred to two people from the same familial line.
By the 1800s, the term evolved to a chip off the old block and came to mean someone closely resembling his parent.
How Did the Idiom Evolve Over Time?
While its basic meaning has remained relatively constant, the idiom has evolved to include a broader range of applications, sometimes extending beyond family ties to describe anyone or anything that strongly resembles another source or origin. It can now be used to describe any person or object that resembles its source material, making it even more of an idiom.
What Are Some Related Terms to Chip off the Old Block?
Long idiomatic phrases like this one can sometimes feel daunting to use and tend to make writing feel repetitive. So, use synonyms to mix things up!
- Spitting image
- Like father, like son
- Like mother, like daughter
- One and the same
- Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
- The black sheep (of the family)
- Nothing like
- Couldn’t be further from
Chip off the Old Block: Test Your Knowledge!
Choose the correct answer.
What Have We Learned about Chip off the Old Block?
We have learned that a chip off the old block is an idiom that signifies someone, usually a child, inheriting and closely resembling the qualities or characteristics of one of their parents, especially their father.
It is a testament to our enduring fascination with family heritage and resemblance. By learning about its meaning, origins, and usage, we gain not only a better understanding of the idiom itself but also a richer appreciation for the language and culture that shape such expressions.
Try using it in conversations or your writing and see how it elevates the meaning of your words. If you like this quick guide, check out all my other idiomatic breakdowns like this one right on our site!