Blood is thicker than water. (Idioms with ‘water’, Part 2)

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by Kate Woodford

This is the second of two posts on idioms that contain the word ‘water’. On this blog, we always try to provide you with commonly used, contemporary idioms and this post is no exception!

If you say you will do something come hell or high water, you mean you are very determined to do it, whatever difficulties you may face: I’m going to be at that ceremony next year, come hell or high water!

If you describe yourself as treading water, you mean you are in a situation where you are not making progress: I feel like I’m treading water in this job – I’m not learning anything new. (To ‘tread water’ literally is to float – but not move forward – in water, by moving your arms and legs quickly up and down.)

Someone who throws cold water on your idea or suggestion is negative about it, in a way that makes you feel discouraged: I try to make helpful suggestions, but you just throw cold water on them!

If you keep your head above water you have or make just enough money to continue, though the situation is difficult: Currently we have enough customers coming in to keep our head above water, but only just.

If you dip a toe in the water, you try doing something in order to work out whether it is worth going ahead with it: I did some voluntary work in a school for a term, just to dip a toe in the water.

If an explanation or argument doesn’t hold water, it doesn’t seem to be true or reasonable: As a justification for spending all that money, it just doesn’t hold water.

‘Water’ also features in a saying. Blood is thicker than water means that the relationships we have with our family are more important than relationships with other people: At the end of the day, she’s my sister and I want to help her. Blood is thicker than water.

A group of idioms use the plural ‘waters’. For example, uncharted waters refers to a situation or activity that people have no knowledge of, often because it has never happened before: We simply don’t know how the current situation will play out long-term. We’re in uncharted waters.

In British English, if you pour oil on troubled waters, you do or say something to make people who have been arguing become friends again: My attempts to pour oil on troubled waters, sadly, didn’t help.

We’ll end with another saying. Still waters run deep means that someone who seems quiet and shy on the outside actually has a very interesting and complicated character.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these two ‘water’ idioms posts. Enjoy the rest of your week.

26 thoughts on “Blood is thicker than water. (Idioms with ‘water’, Part 2)

  1. bozojo

    Hi Ms Woodford,

    In the idiom “Keep your head above water”, you give this example sentence:

    ” Currently we have enough customers coming in to keep our head above water, but only just.”

    One of my difficulties in English is the parts of the body.

    If someone is talking to a group of people, doesn’t one say “Mind your headS”, rather than “Mind your heaD”, ie using the plural of the body part?

    “It just breaks our heartS seeing this”, again the plural of the body part.

    Even though in both cases (“head” and “heart”) there is only one to each person.

    But in the example given to the idiom “Keep your head above water”, the body part is in the singular [“…. in to keep our head above water, but only just.”].

    My question is this:

    When referring to an in/determinate group of people, or the public in general, would the body part mentioned be in the singular or the plural?



    1. David Patterson

      It’s the company that is being referred to – so that’s singular hence “head”.
      You may also say “we are hoping to increase our market share” – not “shares” for example

    2. Kate Woodford

      Hi! Yes, as David Patterson explains, it’s the company I had in mind, viewed as one entity. However, you could say ‘heads’, plural, here, if you were envisaging the company as a number of people. Best wishes from Cambridge!

  2. Maryem Salama

    I love the word water and its strength in catching our attention in some powerful phrases and idioms. in the academic circles, we often hear them saying “as if he or she expounds water with water”. My late mother used to say, “it is tasteless like water” to describe someone or something humdrum. Thank you, Kate.

  3. TY TAY

    Hello! When I have read this topic. I think its very well for me. please give topic that good to people around the world continue . Thanks!

  4. Lancelot Williams

    “Blood is thicker than water” is not the complete idiom; it comes from “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb”, meaning a promise is more important than blood relations, or the exact opposite of what is stated here.

  5. Riadus Salehin

    So you’re saying “come hell or high water” as in strong resolve; “treading water” as in hit a dead end; “throw cold water on” as in put out the light of encouragement; “keep your head above the water” as in barely making it; “dip a toe in the water” as in trying to figure out the process of sth; “doesn’t hold water” as in not so workable; “blood is thicker than water” as in kiths and kins before smiths and finns; “uncharted waters” as in unfamiliar circumstances; “pour oil on troubled waters” as in to reconcile and lastly “still waters run deep” as in don’t be deceived by one’s seemingly naive, unassuming countenance?

    Thanks a lot, Kate! It’s such an amazing way to learn all these phrases together! I don’t think I’m forgetting them anytime soon come hell or high water!

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