Did you know these 10 phrases were in the Bible?

Most of us know some everyday phrases that come from the Bible like “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” or the idea of a scapegoat. But there are many more. The Bible has had a profound impact on language the world over. Here are a few of my favourites phrases whose Biblical origins may be less well known.

No peace for the wicked - Isaiah

No peace for the wicked

God’s repeated warning to stubborn Israel through Isaiah, eg Isaiah 48:22: “There is no peace”, says the Lord, “for the wicked”.

How the might have fallen - 2 Samuel

How the mighty are fallen

David’s dismay at the death of Saul, 2 Samuel 1:19: “The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen!”

the writing is on the wall - Daniel 5

The writing’s on the Wall

Yep meaning something REALLY bad is about to happen — as God reveals to Daniel in Daniel 5.

Bites the dust - Psalm 72

Another one bites the dust

This phrase has many roots inc. Psalm 72:9, “May the desert tribes bow before him and his enemies lick the dust.”

sour grapes - ezekiel

Sour grapes

The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”, Jeremiah and Ezekiel quoting a saying that sin is not just individual.

skin of my teeth - Job

The skin of my teeth

I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped only by the skin of my teeth”. This is poor Job’s bewildered summary to his friends. Job 19:20.

leopard change its spots - Jeremiah

Can a leopard change its spots?

Can an Ethiopian change his skin, or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil”, Jeremiah 13:23.

The straight and narrow - Matthew 7

The straight and narrow

Generally thought to be from Matthew 7:14 as Jesus brings his Sermon on the Mount to a conclusion: ” Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”.

the fat of the land - Genesis 45

Living off the fat of the land

In Genesis 45:18, Pharaoh urges Joseph to bring his whole family to Egypt where: “I will give you the best of the land … you can enjoy the fat of the land.”

Salt of the earth - Matthew 5

The salt of the earth

Also from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” Matthew 5:13.

… well those are my Top-10 favourites. What about you? Do you have favourite phrases with a Biblical root? If you want to trawl some more try these websites:

12 common phrases you never knew were from the Bible
37 common English sayings originally from the Bible
Top 50 popular phrases from the Bible

Notify of

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Helen Stewart
Helen Stewart
5 years ago

Hi Chris
I don’t know if this collection of ten common phrases was yours or from somewhere else but the adoption of this phrase is interesting.
It comes from Matthew, KJV, strait is the gate and narrow is the way…
But strait here means confined, constrained (narrow, even), so when it has been used it has been changed to a homophone to alter the meaning. This used to puzzle me when I was a child as I knew it was wrong, but now I know that written and spoken language can mutate in unexpected ways.

5 years ago

Great! BUT you seem to have focused mainly on dour and depressing phrases!