Know Someone from Adam, to not

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Meaning of Idiom 'To Not Know Someone From Adam'

To not know someone from Adam means to not know someone at all, having never met them, or to completely unable recognize them. 1,2


"I don't know him from Adam, yet he came to my party uninvited."

"I don't know you from Adam and you expect me to lend you money?"


Used since the 1800's, this idiom derives from the biblical story of Adam, the first man, created by God. The idea seems to be that Adam lived so long ago that nobody living today could possibly recognize him.

Charles Dickens used the expression in his story The Old Curiosity Shop (1840):

"He had scarcely bestowed upon him his blessing, and followed it with a general remark touching the present state and prospects of the weather, when, lifting up his eyes, he beheld the single gentleman of Bevis Marks in earnest conversation with Christopher Nubbles.
'Halloo!' said Dick, 'who is that?'
'He called to see my Governor this morning,' replied Mr. Chuckster; 'beyond that, I don't know him from Adam.'" 3

1. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.
2. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
3. Chrysti. Verbivore's Feast: Second Course: More Word & Phrase Origins. Helena, MT: Farcountry, 2006.

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