Like oil and water

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Like oil and water
is an idiom that is hundreds of years old. We will examine the meaning of the common saying like oil and water, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Like oil and water compares two things that do not go together or two people who are not compatible or do not get along. The expression like oil and water is a simile, which is a phrase used in a sentence that is a comparison of one thing with something else using the word like or the word as. The idiom like oil and water is the abbreviated form of the proverb, oil and water don’t mix. The idiom like oil and water is said to have originated in the United States in the 1780s; however, mixing oil and water has never been possible, and surely had been observed even in ancient times.


Their dissimilar communication styles often made them seem like oil and water, she said. (Business Journals)

For years it’s felt like the Cincinnati Bengals and free agency mix like oil and water. (Sports Illustrated)

When chefs Michael Cimbrec and Jackie Barthelemymet for the first time more than a decade ago, “it was like oil and water,” Cimbrec says. (Palm Beach Post)