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It takes a thief to catch a thief

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on October 12, 2009 at 18:45

In Reply to: It takes a thief to catch a thief posted by ESC on October 12, 2009 at 15:48:

: : It takes a thief to catch a thief. Does anyone know the origin of this English Proverb?

: : Thanks for your help.

: Set a thief to catch a thief. Mid-seventeenth century proverb.
: "Oxford Dictionary of Quotations," Fifth Edition, edited by Elizabeth Knowles (Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 2001). Page 310.
According to the Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs he earliest sighting of it , in the form "set a thief to catch a thief" (the usual version) is in a play published in 1665, where it is described as an "old saying". However, the ODP also remarks that an epigram by the classical Greek writer Callimachus contains the remark "being a thief myself I recognized the tracks of a thief", which contains the same idea and may have influenced the English proverb.