The idiom “through thick and thin” means to support or be loyal to someone or something, even when things are difficult. It is often used to describe a strong friendship or relationship. It means, at any cost, no matter what happens, however difficult or seemingly impossible, to support, no matter how difficult it may turn out to be.
Origin of ‘through thick and thin’
This dates back to a time when the English countryside was difficult to navigate, being made up of dense woods as well as stretches of wasteland. To make progress one would have to be prepared to travel through both potentially hostile conditions. The phrase “through thick and thin” became used to describe someone who was willing to stick by their friends and family in matters other than navigating the terrain, no matter what. It was a reminder that even in the most difficult times, there is always hope, just like, in the literal sense, one could make it through the landscape with friends dedicated to helping one.
Through thick and thin in literature and popular culture
The idiom “through thick and thin” is a reminder that true friendship, love, and loyalty can withstand any challenge. It is a phrase that has been used in literature for centuries, and it continues to be a popular expression today.
The first time the phrase appears it is a literal description of the need to negotiate that terrain. It is in Chaucer’s fourteenth-century Reeve’s Tale in The Canterbury Tales:
And whan the hors was laus, he gynneth gon
Toward the fen, ther wilde mares renne,
And forth with “wehee,” thurgh thikke and thurgh thenne.
Also in The Knight’s Tale the knight tells the story of how he and his companions were attacked by a group of bandits. The knight says that they were able to fight off the bandits and escape, thanks to their loyalty to each other. He says,
“We fought together through thick and thin, and in the end we were victorious.”
The Elizabethan poet, Edmund Spenser, used it in The Faerie Queene, 1590.
“His tyreling Jade he fiersly forth did push. Through thicke and thin, both over banck and bushe.”
The phrase “through thick and thin” is also used in the novel David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. In the novel, David’s aunt, Betsey Trotwood, says to him, “I’ll stand by you, child, through thick and thin.” This line shows that Betsey is a loyal and supportive friend who will always be there for David, no matter what.
In the movie “The Shawshank Redemption,” the character of Andy Dufresne says,
“I hope you’re still around, Red, when I get out. We’ll go fishing together. Through the thick and thin.”
Here are some other examples of the use of the idiom “through thick and thin” in literature:
- “We’ll stick together through thick and thin.” – The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
- “I’ll love you through thick and thin.” – The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
- “We’re friends through thick and thin.” – The Breakfast Club by John Hughes
- “I’ll always be there for you, through thick and thin.” – The Princess Bride by William Goldman
- In the book “The Lord of the Rings,” the characters of Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee are said to be “friends through thick and thin.”
In the song “Through the Fire and Flames” by DragonForce, the lyrics say, “We’ll be together through the thick and thin.”
In the song “The Killing Moon” by Echo & the Bunnymen, the lyrics to the chorus are:
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him
You give yourself to him
Using Through Thick and Thin
Here are some examples of how to use “through thick and thin”:
- “I was lucky: my wife has supported me through thick and thin.”
- “We are in danger of going bankrupt but we are determined to stick it out through thick and thin,”
- “You left her in the lurch when you should have stood side by side with her through thick and thin.”
- “His team has won their last four matches but he is determined to stick with them through thick and thin.”
- My best friend has supported me through thick and thin.
- Even though there are rumors that the company is in trouble we plan to stick it out through thick and thin.
- If you really loved him you would have stuck by him through thick and thin. Instead, you left when things got hard.
- My husband has supported the local soccer team through thick and thin. He is a true fan.
Other phrases meaning through thick and thin
- Come hell or high water
- For better or worse
- For love or money
- In good times and bad
- Against the odds
- At any price
- Come rain or shine