Never the twain shall meet


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Never the twain shall meet'?

Two things which are so different as to have no opportunity to unite.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Never the twain shall meet'?

Twain derives from the Old English twegen, meaning two. The phrase never the twain shall meet was used by Rudyard Kipling, in his Barrack-room ballads, 1892:

“Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.”

There, Kipling is lamenting the gulf of understanding between the British and the inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent. It may well be that he coined the phrase – at least, I can’t find an earlier citation of it in print.

Trend of never the twain shall meet in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.