Language lessons across the UK & Ireland

Call us! 0203 650 19 50 / +353 (0) 1 440 3978

The Popular Phrases We Stole From the Bible

bibleIf you haven’t read the Bible in a while then you might be surprised at how up to date some of the phrases in it appear. For a book that was written many centuries ago it is incredible to find so many modern sounding phrases. Of course, that’s because we have stolen so much of it and turned it into everyday phrases.

Man does not live by bread alone - Deuteronomy 8:3 / Matthew 4:4

I could have sworn that this phrase was from a Delia Smith cookbook but it turns out to be from the Bible, which is kind of similar when you think about it. The meaning behind this phrase is that your physical wellbeing isn’t enough to keep you happy; you also need to look after your spiritual side. To be honest, Delia usually concentrates more on straight recipes than profound spiritual advice.

BibleCan a leopard change his spots? - Jeremiah 13:23

The person who turned this Biblical expression into a common phrase did well to avoid the rather less catchy “Can an Ethiopian change his skin?” from the same part of the Bible. The original section goes on to say that if this is the case then a person who is accustomed to evil can also do good. In modern terms this expression has been turned round to say that a leopard can’t change his spots.  I think that means that we now think that evil people are all doomed to stay evil, if I have understood things correctly.

For everything there is a season - Ecclesiastes 3:1

Who knew this phrase was from the good book? I thought it was originally from The Byrds and was always accompanied by twangy guitars and the timeless advice to Turn! Turn! Turn! Roger McGuinn and his merry men took a passage from the Bible and set it to music, leading to a great song and a plea for world peace. It is one of the few cases of a large section of biblical text being placed almost directly to music in a mainstream song, although they did change a few words along the way.

 bibleBlind leading the blind - Matthew 15:14 / Luke 6:39

Jesus once used this expression and my Mum still uses it. Isn’t that a weird coincidence? Apparently, if a blind person leads another blind person they will probably fall into a pit. The need for reliable guide dogs was evident even in Jesus’ day it seems.


The writing is on the wall - Daniel 5:5

This is a popular expression which is frequently used by sports commentators and news reporters. It is also the name of an album by Destiny’s Child. However, the story behind the original phrase is even more exciting than anything Beyonce and crew could have dreamed up. A disembodied hand wrote some words on a wall which signalled the end of the Babylonian empire, just before Belsahazzar was killed and the Persian forces raided the city. Try putting that to a sassy beat and shaking your booty to it.

Do you know of any other biblical phrases we still use today?