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The meaning and origin of the expression: The apple never falls far from the tree

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The apple never falls far from the tree

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'The apple never falls far from the tree'?

The proverbial saying 'the apple never falls far from the tree', or 'the apple doesn't fall far from the tree' expresses the idea that a person inevitably shares traits with or resembles his or her parents or family..

What's the origin of the phrase 'The apple never falls far from the tree'?

'The apple never falls far from the tree' sounds very much like a biblical proverb. The apple tree is often used as a synonym for Jesus and the apple also features in the fable of Adam and Eve. However, there is nothing that equates to this expression in the Bible.

The apple never falls far from the tree.The proverb is difficult to date and to pin down the origin of. All of the early uses of 'the apple never falls far from the tree' in English refer to it as a translation from one of several different European languages. For example, the earliest use of the proverb in English is found in Benjamin Thorpe's translation of Rasmus Rask's Grammar of the Anglo-Saxon Tongue, published in 1830:

Traces still exist in the daily language of the Icelanders, for instance in the proverb, eplit fellr ekki lánt frá eikinni the apple falls not far from the tree (the oak!).

In 1839 Ralph Waldo Emerson 1839 published a letter which used the English form of an existing German proverb 'der Apfel fällt nicht weit von Stamm':

As men say the apple never falls far from the stem.

Very soon after that, in 1843, George Henry Borrow's The Bible in Spain included this:

‘The apple’, as the Danes say, ‘had not fallen far from the tree’; the imp was in every respect the counterpart of the father.

So, we have a proverb variously ascribed to the Icelanders, the Germans and the Danes. Who originated it and where is an open question. All we can say for sure is that it came into English in or about the 1830s.

'The apple never falls far from the tree' appears to have come into English via America, where it is still more commonplace than elsewhere.

See also: the List of Proverbs.

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