Going against the grain

Going against the grain is an idiom that dates back to Shakespeare’s time. We will examine the meaning of going against the grain, where the term comes from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Going against the grain means contrary to one’s nature, contrary to one’s natural inclination. The term appears in the play Coriolanus, written in 1607 by William Shakespeare: “…Preoccupied with what you rather must do / Than what you should, made you against the grain / To voice him consul: lay the fault on us.” However, going against the grain is thought to be even older than this. The grain in going against the grain refers to the grain in wood. When planing wood, one must go with the grain in order to smooth it. Related terms are go against the grain, goes against the grain, went against the grain.


Unorthodox or not, a 24-yard Bugg scampered against the grain of the Yellow Jacket defense to give the Hawks their first lead of the young season. (The Waxahachie Daily Light)

It may go a bit against the grain of our digital age, but having a paper receipt can greatly ease the return process. (The Topeka Capital-Journal)

“The problem is Spineless Scott is afraid to stand up in the face of adversity … and go against the grain,” Cason said. (The Superior Telegram)

Films like Syriana and shows like Homeland featured this new take on Rambo, now a cool, liberal, and marginalized CIA operative who works against the grain of a conservative culture. (Jacobin Magazine)

Huelskamp’s style, though popular with some voters, went against the grain for a district that had sent pragmatic conservatives to Congress over the course of 50 years: Bob Dole, Keith Sebelius, Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran. (McClatchy News)

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