Blood Is Thicker Than Water – Origin & 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.

The commonly used phrase “blood is thicker than water” was first used in the 12th century by the philosopher Evan Franklin. Read on to learn the origin and definition of the ancient proverb “blood is thicker than water.” Check out my examples of how to use it in a sentence.

“Blood Is Thicker Than Water” Meaning

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The well-known idiom blood is thicker than water is used to say that someone’s family and blood ties are more crucial in their life than any other person, relationship, or need. For instance, it could mean that your bond with your friends is not as valuable as your bond with your family.

Blood is thicker than water is an idiomatic expression because we rarely use the actual meaning in a literal sense. Instead, we use its figurative meaning to denote the importance of family over everything.

Loyalty to family is taught to children in both Eastern and Western cultures. In the USA, children are still prepared to value their parents even if creativity and individualism are prioritized over conformity. Parents also understand the importance of respecting their children.

The word blood references familial relations and kinships. We call this figure of speech a metonymy because the word is associated with an item or concept to refer to the thing itself.

Another example of metonymy is the White House for the United States or sword for military force. Do not confuse metonymy with synecdoche, which is a figure of speech where a part is made to represent the entire item or concept.

Origin of “Blood Is Thicker Than Water”

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Blood is thicker than water usage trend.

The original meaning of blood is thicker than water was first recorded in the 12th century. A German philosopher known as Evan Franklin used it to say that people who are related have stronger responsibilities toward each other than those outside the family.

The use of the word blood to represent family is rooted in Greek and Roman traditions and only entered English during the late 1300s. Around 600 years later, blood could be attributed to national affiliations aside from family relations.

However, Messianic Rabbi Richard Pustelniak and author Albert Jack state that the quote comes from the idea that ties between people who made a blood covenant are stronger than anything.

A blood covenant was the practice of sacrificing an animal or cutting palms to establish a close bond between two parties. Such rituals may have religious, kin-related, or magical associations.

Other ancient cultures plant a memorial tree or eat a memorial meal after a blood covenant with their new ally.

Earlier Usage of “Blood Is Thicker Than Water”

A similar saying was used in a German beast epic entitled Reinhart Fuchs by Heinrich der Glîchezære. When translated to English, the line goes, “I also hear it said that kin-blood is not spoiled by water.”

The English priest John Lydgate also used the term in 1412. He states, “For naturelly blod wil ay of kynde / Draw unto blod, wher he may it fynde.”

The first use of the proverb in the United States can be traced to the Journal of Athabasca Department, published in 1821.

Another famous use of the saying was made by US Navy Commodore Josiah Tattnall. He used it to explain why he provided aid to the British squadron after the attack on Taku Forts.

Aldous Huxley used a similar proverb to blood is thicker than water in Ninth Philosopher’s Song in 1920. The line goes, “Blood, as all men know, than water’s thicker / But water’s wider, thank the Lord, than blood.”

“Blood Is Thicker Than Water” Examples in Sentences

  • You can’t tell me blood is thicker than water when you have a dysfunctional family like mine. They’re the worst.
  • I disowned my parents the moment I turned of age. Blood is thicker than water, but sometimes you need to prioritize your own mental health. 
  • I’m writing a horror/thriller novel and thinking about titling it ‘Blood is Thicker Than Water.’
  • The tagline really sells it: “My Sister, the Serial Killer is a blackly comic novel about how blood is thicker—and more difficult to get out of the carpet—than water…” (Electric Lit)
  • The Dutton family may be dysfunctional, but blood is thicker than water, and Dutton blood is as thick as it comes. (ScreenRant)

Learn More English Sayings

Using English proverbs and idiomatic expressions will add creativity to your writing or speech. Use “blood is thicker than water” when emphasizing the importance of family relations over romantic relationships, friendships, and other relationships. What other proverbs do you want to learn?