Chip Off The Old Block

An expression in use since the 1600’s.

Meaning

To be a chip off the old block means to be similar to one of your parents, whether in traits, mannerisms, etc.

This is similar to idiom “the splitting image [of]” except that to be a chip off the old block does not have to mean physical appearance only. It is also similar to the expression, the apple does not fall far from the tree or like father, like son.

Usage

This idiom is more often used to indicate a male is similar to his father but it can be used for both males and females, fathers and mothers.

Examples Of Use

“I’m told I’m a chip off the old block but I don’t see it.”

“It was strange meeting you after knowing your mother for so long. You’re such a chip off the old block.”

“Johh Withers, Jr. ran the business for years after his father retired, and it was said he was a chip off the old block.”

As soon as I saw that peculiar walk of his I knew he was a chip off the old block.”

Origin

Originally British, this phrase was originally found as chip of the old block (‘of’ instead of off) and chip of the same block (same instead of old).

An early use of this phrase (a version of it) is a 1621 sermon from the Bishop of Lincoln, Robert Sandson: “Am not I a child of the same Adam … a chip of the same block, with him?” John Milton also used it: “How well dost thou now appeare to be a Chip of the old block.”1

This same phrase also appeared in a play, Dick of Devonshire, written by an unknown author but sometimes said to be authored by Thomas Heywood: “Why may I not be a chip of the same blocke out of which you two were cut?”

An early occurrence of the version ‘chip off the old block’ appeared in a June 1870 Ohio newspaper, The Athens Messenger: “The children see their parents’ double-dealings, see their want of integrity, and learn them to cheat … The child is too often a chip off the old block.”2

See various other examples.

The expression, with of instead of off, appears to have been in regular use during the 1600’s. It appears that the off version began to be used during the late 1800’s and was firmly in use by the turn of the century.

The allusion in the idiom is simple. A chip from a block of wood can be said to be like the large piece in every way except in size, having been derived from the wood, and having formed a part of it. And it is often as if children are like their parents in so many ways that they are a piece of them, made of the same material.

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