Thorn in one’s side and thorn in one’s flesh

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Thorn in one’s side and thorn in one’s flesh are two versions of an idiom with very definite origins. We will examine the meaning of the idioms thorn in one’s side and thorn in one’s flesh, where they came from, and some examples of their idiomatic usage in sentences.

The idioms a thorn in one’s side and a thorn in one’s flesh refer to someone or something that is a continual annoyance or someone or something that constantly causes one trouble. For instance, a neighbor who lets his dog defecate on your lawn every morning might be a thorn in your side or a thorn in your flesh. The expressions thorn in one’s side and thorn in one’s flesh are derived from two passages in the Bible. In the Old Testament, Numbers 33:55 states: “But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides.” In the New Testament, 2 Corinthians 12:7 states: “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”


U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham touted an endorsement Thursday from Constitution Party nominee Bill Bledsoe, hoping to rid himself of a thorn in his side that risked peeling away a small but potentially pivotal number of conservative votes in South Carolina’s competitive U.S. Senate race. (The Charleston Post and Courier)

“Not having a degree has always been a thorn in her side,” Kapiloff continued. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

However, some unscrupulous people within the local authority have been a thorn in her flesh as they want to help themselves with the same piece of land. (The Zambia Daily Mail)

I had done what the world had signaled I must: hidden the thorn in my flesh, held “the demon” at bay, kept the covenant, borne the weight of my crooked cross. (The New York Times)