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The meaning and origin of the expression: Do unto others as you would have them do to you

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Do unto others as you would have them do to you


Literal meaning.


This saying is one of the oldest notions known to man in that it is the basis of many of the ethical systems on which societies have been built. Many expressions of it in various versions have existed in the classic literature of Greece and Rome, as well as in Islamic, Taoist, Sikh and other religious texts. The English 'do unto others...' version is the biblical expression of it, and this appears in Matthew 7:12: (The Miles Coverdale Bible), 1535:

Therfore what soeuer ye wolde that me shulde do to you, eue so do ye to them. This ys the lawe and the Prophetes.

The importance of the belief was emphasised during the 17th century, when it began to be known as the Golden Law, or Golden Rule. Robert Godfrey called it that is Various injuries and abuses in chymical and galenical physick, 1674, using the more colloquial form 'do as you would be done by':

Whilst forgetting that Golden Law do as you would be done by, they make self the center of their actions.

Unrelated Golden Rules have also been specified as the name of precepts in other fields, notably mathematics and economics.

See also: the List of Proverbs.