Idioms derived from kinship terms
  An old man

Abdullahi u Bichi from Nigeria writes:

I have seen your responses on idioms. Would you kindly give me some examples of idioms that involve kinship terms?

Roger Woodham replies:

The family

it runs in the family - an ability or talent that is passed on through the generations
your own flesh and blood - a member of your family, do not forget it!
bad blood - hostility or unfriendliness between two families or family members
blood is thicker than water - family ties are stronger than any others, despite arguments.

  • He has two daughters, both very athletic, just like their mother. It runs in the family.
  • You should take better care of your younger sister. She is your own flesh and blood.
  • There is bad blood between the two brothers. They haven't spoken to each other in two years.
  • His housekeeper had looked after him for many years but he still left all his money to his only son. Blood is thicker than water, you know.


mum's the word - it's a secret, don't tell anyone
mother nature - nature and its benevolence towards human beings

  • Dora doesn't know about Jim's affair with Marion, so mum's the word.
  • It's a nasty sprain but leave it all to mother nature and it will heal naturally.


a sugar daddy - a rich man who is generous to younger women in return for sexual favours
a father figure - someone that you can turn to for advice and support

  • She always liked older men with money and there's no doubt that he was her sugar daddy.
  • In his role as head of personnel, he became a father figure for the whole company.

Sons and daughters

a chip off the old block - a son or daughter who is just like their father in character, looks or temperament
child's play / kids' stuff - an easy task that requires little effort
a confirmed bachelor - a man who has decided on principle never to marry
a blind date - an arranged meeting between two people of the opposite sex who haven't met before
a passing fancy - temporary liking for someone or something

  • He's as stubborn as his father - a chip off the old block in other words.
  • Getting Jack to undertake this difficult assignment should be child's play / kids' stuff. He's already very keen on the idea.
  • David's a confirmed bachelor - lots of girlfriends, but nothing serious.
  • They've been married for fifteen years and, do you know, they first met on a blind date.
    I don't like my daughter's new boyfriend. I just hope he's a passing fancy.

Husband and wife and other relationships

my old man / my old woman - a slightly derogatory term for husband / wife
old wives' tales - traditional beliefs which are proved wrong by science
a bit on the side - a sexual relationship outside marriage
an old flame - someone of the opposite sex you were strongly attracted to in the past

  • My old man spends most afternoons at the bookmakers.
  • If you think this blend of herbs can cure you of this, well, that's an old wives' tale, I'm afraid.
  • They have an open marriage, but I don't believe in that. I don't think you should have a bit on the side.
  • Did you see how his eyes lit up when Claire entered the room. Claire's an old flame of his.

House and home

on the house - provided free to the customer by the hotel, bar or organisation
a home from home - place where one feels very welcome
home truths - honest criticism which is often painful

  • This is a famous victory for our country, so all the drinks this evening will be on the house.
  • The people there were so friendly that staying with them was just like a home from home.
  • He doesn't like to face up to home truths but everybody knows he is a liar.

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