“Flesh and blood” is probably the most physical image one could ever come up with for any purpose, and perfect as an image to refer both to the human species and the families that belong to it.
We use “flesh and blood” in two main ways:
- The first is in a general sense to mean a human being, a real mortal living human being – not a ghost or a memory but a material part of nature.
- The second meaning is a person genetically related to oneself. Your son or daughter or parents would be your flesh and blood, but not your wife or husband, if you are using it to mean family rather than humankind. But your wife or husband would still be regarded as flesh and blood because they are family. So flesh and blood also refers generally to family.
Origin of the idiom “flesh and blood”
Where did the phrase come from? By the time Shakespeare arrived on the scene, “flesh and blood” was already well dug in as a commonly-used phrase.
We don’t know exactly how long the phrase has been around but we can pinpoint its first appearance in an English text more than a thousand years ago. It appears in an early translation of the Bible into Old English – the Anglo-Saxon Gospels, Matthew 16:17 in around 1000 AD:
“Hit ye ne onwreah flaesc ne blod.”
This old English phrase was later translated for the King James Bible as:
“Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee.”
“Flesh and blood” in Shakespeare’s works
The phrase “flesh and blood” was around long before Shakespeare and when he used it more than a dozen times in his plays it was already a common way of referring to the human race. Shakespeare obviously loved it, and in every case in which he used it, it fitted right into his themes. It was Shakespeare who tweaked the meaning to make it about family.
How powerful it is when King Lear, ill treated and tortured by his daughters, can’t believe that it’s his own flesh and blood that’s done that to him. The very use of those words also suggests the pain he is experiencing. It is no wonder that Shakespeare loved using the phrase. It is probably his liberal use of it that has made it the common idiom it is today.
“Flesh and blood” is a phrase that Shakespeare used in 13 of his plays:
Example sentences using “flesh and blood”
“I can’t believe the beauty of this baby, and that she’s my own flesh and blood.”
“It’s all very well to rely on the gods who sit aloof on Mount Parnassus but we of flesh and blood have to take responsibility for ourselves.”
“I am only flesh and blood – I can’t perform miracles.”
“I don’t believe in ghosts – if a man suddenly appears before me I know that he’s only flesh and blood.”
“I can’t change things: I’m only flesh and blood.”
Frequently used terms related to “flesh and blood” meaning family
Kinsmen, relations, relatives, lineage, kin, folk, kids, flesh, family, blood relations, offspring, children, spawn, issue, flesh, brood, progeny, youngsters, nearest and dearest, stock, issue, daughter, son, seed, descendants.
Frequently used terms related to “flesh and blood” meaning human beings
Human, mortal, carnal, corporeal, bodily, corporal, physical, biological, natural, material, organic, earthly, fleshly, substantial, worldly
Idioms with the word “blood”
- Blood is thicker than water
- Blood on the carpet
- Like getting blood out of a stone
- Blood runs cold
- Blood, sweat, and tears
- Curdle (someone’s) blood
- Draw blood
- Go for the jugular
- Bew blood
- Have (someone’s) blood on one’s hands
- In cold blood
- In one’s blood
- Make (someone’s) blood boil
- Blue blood (royalty)
- Make (someone’s) blood run cold
- Out for blood
- Smell blood
- Sweat blood
Idioms with the word “flesh”
- Being a thorn in someone’s flesh
- Pressing the flesh
- Having goose flesh
- Making one’s flesh crawl
- Neither fish nor flesh
- The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak
- Pound of flesh
- Putting flesh on the bones of something
- Going the way of all flesh