Not Have A — Bone In One's Body

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Meaning of Idiom 'Not Have a — Bone in One's Body

This character idiom can be positive, negative, or neutral depending on the adjective used, such as lazy, honest, selfish, kind, etc. It means that the person being referred to absolutely does not possess the quality named. 1,2

A related variant replaces "bone in one's body" with "hair on one's head."

Usage

A person who does not have a lazy bone in his body is a person who is always willing to work hard and is never idle. Lazy is a common adjective used for this idiom and could be considered positive or neutral depending on the context.

A person who does not have an honest bone in her body is never truthful, a negative trait.

It is unclear whether the idiom 'lazybones' is related to this idiom.

Any adjective that describes character can be used.

Examples:

"Tracy doesn't have a mean bone in her body. She's definitely not the person who got you in trouble."

"Whatever Mr. Tourner says to you do not do business with him. There's not an honest bone in his body."

"Well it's true, Tom doesn't have a lazy bone in his body. But that doesn't mean he's the right man for this job."

Origin

Used since at least the mid-1800's. It appeared in Mark Twain's Library of Humor (1888) in the story The Vacation of Mustapha by Robert J. Burdette:

"Ofttimes he boasted to his neighbors that there was not a lazy bone in his body, and he swore that he hated a lazy man."

Sources
1. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.
2. Pare, May. Body Idioms and More: For Learners of English. United States?: Mayuree Pare, 2005.

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