English Idioms about Family

Here comes another post in our idioms series. Idioms are made up of a group of words and their meaning are often unpredictable. It is advisable to make use of idioms when learning a language, especially in communication because they help us sound natural. They are also the shortest way to express some specific terms for which there are no other words.

Our topic today is about beloved people who are closest to every of us. Yes, you are right: our idioms are discussing family members (and related issues). For now, let’s dig deep into these useful expressions.

English Idioms about Family

1. Idioms About Family Members In General

Spitting image: When you say a person is the spitting image of someone else, you mean they look exactly the same. This idiom often refers to members within a family.

Example: She is the spitting image of her deceased mother.

Be the spitting image of somebody can also be replaced with bear a strong/ close/ striking resemblance to somebody and a chip off the old block, all of which are common in daily communication.

Your (own) flesh and blood: If somebody is your flesh and blood, he/ she is a relative or family member of yours.

Example: I cannot believe John treated his own flesh and blood so badly. He is  such a polite and charming man.

You should pay special attention to this idiom so that you will not mistake it for flesh and blood, which refers to a normal person.

Like father, like son: This is a common saying and is used to say that a son’s behaviors or characteristics are similar to those of his father.


A: Tom is such a mean and opportunist man! His son is no better than that despite his young age.

B: Like father, like son.

The apple doesn’t fall/ never falls far from the tree: This saying is used to say that a child’s behaviors are usually the same as his/ her parents. It can be seen as the extension of the aforementioned idiom Like father, like son.

Example: Jane is as vivacious and smart as her mother. It is true that the apple never falls far from the tree.

the apple never falls far from the tree

the apple never falls far from the tree



2. Idioms About Family Roles

Men make houses, women make homes: This proverb means that men are the ones to build houses for the family, while women are responsible for creating a cozy home.
Bring home the bacon: When you bring home the bacon, you are very successful and in charge of earning money for your family.

Example: Being a venerable doctor with in-depth knowledge and matchless skills, he always brings home the bacon.

English Idioms about Family

Men are often entrusted with bringing home the bacon

Wear the trousers/ pants: This idiom has a disapproving tone, and often refers to a woman who makes most of the decisions in a family.

Example: A: I wonder who wears the pants in the relationship.

B: Isn’t it obvious that she always makes important decisions?

3. Idioms About Family Tradition

Follow in somebody’s footsteps: This idiom means “doing a job somebody did before”, especially a member within your family.

Example: Though she is into fine arts, she decides to become a doctor, following in her dad’s footsteps.

One small note: For the sake of completeness, remember to include the preposition “in” when you use this expression in writing and speaking. Many learners tend to omit “in” because we often say “follow me” or “follow the rules”.

You can also relate this expression with from father to son, which means “from a generation of a family to the next”. For instance: Tom’s family’s tradition of making fine watches has been passed down from father to son.

Run in the family: If something runs in the family, it is a common feature of that family.

Example: Cardiovascular diseases run in the family.

Be/ Run in somebody’s blood: When you say a characteristic is/ runs in somebody’s blood, you mean it is his/ her (family’s) nature.

Example: Greed runs in his blood. He is never satisfied with what he has.

Black sheep: If a person is described as a black sheep, he/ she is considered an embarrassment because of the difference between him/ her and other family members.

Example: Tom is such a black sheep. He is very lazy and short-sighted, which is not the case with his brothers.

English Idioms about Family

It hurts when you are called a black sheep, doesn’t it?

4. Idioms About Marriage

Pop the question: When you pop the question, you ask for someone to marry you.

Example: A: I could not believe my ears when Jane told that Steve popped the question. He seems so reserved that I think he is shy with girls.

B: Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Tie the knot: This is an informal alternative to get married, and it is also in wide use.

Example: Only after they tied the knot did the husband show his true colors. (Check out our idioms about colors here to know what “his true colors” means)
Made in heaven: Made in heaven is used to say that a relationship (especially a marriage) seems to be perfect. One of the most popular combinations is match made in heaven.

Example: Lily and James are really a match made in heaven. They have everything in common, from hobbies, lifestyle to ways of thinking.
Confirmed bachelor: A bachelor is a man who has never been married, and a confirmed bachelor is a man who has no intention of getting married. More often than not, this phrase is considered the language of newspapers and used to mention a gay man.

Example: He shows no interest in girls and is a confirmed bachelor. One more interesting expression with bachelor is eligible bachelor. Many people want to marry an eligible bachelor, especially because he is very wealthy.

5. Idioms About Children

Spare the rod and spoil the child: This proverb is used to say that if you do not punishes a child when he/ she behaves badly or do something wrong, he/ she cannot distinguish between right and wrong.

Example: A: It distressed me to discipline Tom – he is so small.

B: I understand your feelings, but punishments do him good. You know: Spare the rod and spoil the child.

Sleep like a baby: If somebody sleeps like a baby, he/ she sleeps very well.

Example: After the trip, my younger brother was so tired that he slept like a baby.

Sleep like a log is a possible substitute for sleep like a baby.

English Idioms about Family

Many people find it hard to sleep like a baby.

Born with a silver spoon in your mouth: A child is said to be born with a silver spoon in his mouth when he/ she has rich parents.


A: Did you see Jane’s outfit at the prom last night? It was so magnificent that I could not believe my eyes.

B: No surprise, as she is born with a silver spoon in her mouth.

6. Idioms About Family Closeness

East or West, home is best: This saying means “No matter where you go, your home is always the best place for you to return.”


A: He had traveled a lot throughout his life, but spent the last years of his life in his hometown.

B: It is understandable. East or West, home is best.

Blood is thicker than water: This saying means that the bonds among family members are stronger than those of any other relationships.


A: If your brother and your best friend got into a fight, who would you support.

B: Of course I would stand up for my brother. Blood is thicker than water!

Home is where the heart is: This saying emphasizes the importance of family members. Wherever they are, it is your home.


A: Bill moves to the countryside to live with his parents, although his career is budding in the city.

B: Home is where the heart is.

(Come) hell or high water: This idiom means “despite any difficulties”. In fact, it can be used in various kinds of context, and family is a suitable topic to put it in use.

Example: He knows that his sister will never leave him, come high or high water.


Above are useful and popular idioms about family, ranging from members to such issues as traditions and roles. We hope you have obtained some expressions, and are able to put them into practice.

There are various English idioms that may come in handy in your daily lives, and making use of them makes you sound much more natural. Great news is that such idioms are compiled in our posts, so you will not have to look for them from other sources. All you need is time and effort, without which you will never achieve success. Acquiring proficiency in English is a long process, but we are always here to help you, and look forward to your progress.

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