Hair of the Dog – Idiom, Origin and Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

You can add more color and nuance to your conversations and writing with idioms. I love using idiomatic sayings in my writing because it elevates my characters and makes them feel more real. I know I’ve used the phrase “hair of the dog” many times, so let me explain the meaning behind it and show you how to incorporate it in a full sentence.

Hair of the Dog Meaning Explained

Hair of the Dog Idiom Origin Meaning

The phrase “hair of the dog” really only has one meaning. It refers to the idea of drinking more alcohol as a way of alleviating the symptoms of a bad hangover.

In other words, it suggests that drinking more alcohol in the morning or the day after a night of heavy drinking can ease the vomiting and sickness that usually comes along with it because you’re not hungover anymore; you’re drunk again.

I use the concept in my fantasy writing with anecdotes. If a character is bitten or attacked by a vampire or werewolf, the only cure is the blood of the creature that bit them.

What Is the Full Saying of the Hair of the Dog?

A lot of sayings are actually clipped from a longer sentence. The full saying of this idiom is “hair of the dog that bit you.”

This expression, in its entirety, still says that a small amount of the substance that caused the harm in the first place can also serve as a remedy for the negative effects it brought on.

Hair of the Dog Origin

The origin story here is one that goes back to ancient times when people believed in the belief of “similia similibus curantur” or “like cures like.” The whole idea suggests that a small dose of the substance that caused an ailment could also be used to treat it. It wasn’t always the case, and sometimes resulted in killing the person faster, but every now and then, it worked.

The phrase is specifically derived from an old wives’ tale remedy for rapid dog bites, where some people truly believed that placing a few hairs from the culprit on the open wound would help to heal it.

One of the very first recorded uses of the phrase in the modern context we know today can be found in a 1546 collection of English proverbs by John Heywood.

Hair of the Dog Examples in a Sentence

Hair of the Dog Idiom Origin Meaning 1
  • After a wild night out, John decided to have a hair of the dog to help get rid of his pounding headache.
  • “I know it sounds counterintuitive, but sometimes a hair of the dog can actually help you feel better after a night of drinking,” she told me with a wink.
  • Despite feeling terrible, Amy ordered a Bloody Mary at brunch, hoping that the hair of the dog would work its magic and fix her hangover from the night before.
  • My grandpa always swore by the old saying, “hair of the dog that bit you,” so he would have a glass of whiskey every morning after drinking it the evening before.
  • I hesitated before taking a sip of the strong mimosa, wondering if the hair of the dog would really help me feel better before my wedding or just prolong the inevitable hangover.

Like Fixes Like

See, this is why I love idioms. Not only are they whimsy and useful, but they always come with a cool backstory that gives more insight into using the phrase. The next time you’re dealing with symptoms of a hangover, try an actual hair of the dog (alcoholic drink) and see if it works!