‘Blood is Thicker than Water’ – Origin, Meaning, Expansion, Significance

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‘Blood is Thicker than Water’ – Origin, Meaning, Expansion, Significance


The proverb, ‘blood is thicker than water’, is first known to have existed in a German book in the 1180s. Here, blood is said to be ‘dicker’ (the German word for ‘thicker’) than water.

In 1670, it first appeared in its current English form in a book called ‘Proverbs’, written by John Ray.

This proverb is very popular and has been found throughout the world. In his book, Ray had collected together a variety of common sayings.


This proverb is usually taken to mean that ‘family relationships are stronger, more important or more binding than other relationships’.

‘Blood is thicker than water’ indicates that ‘blood ties between families are particularly strong – like thick blood’.

‘Thicker’ here is used in the sense of meaning ‘more powerful’ or ‘stronger’ or ‘more solid’. In particular, this proverb is often used to contrast family relationships with friendships. Friendships are said to be like weak ‘water’ compared to the strength of family relationships.

It is unclear whether romantic relationships such as marriages are included within blood ties here. However, we can assume that this proverb extends to one’s spouse or significant other as well.

Metaphorically, this proverb is about families and their blood ties. In summary, then, this is a proverb which:

  • Contrasts family relationships with other relationships.
  • States that family relationships are the most important type of relationship.
  • May be contrasting family relationships to romantic relationships.
  • May include romantic relationships as a type of family relationship.
  • Is usually used to contrast ties between family members with ties between friends.

Expansion of the idea with different interpretations.

The proverb asks us to think about which relationships are most important to us. When deciding whom to give financial or other material support to, this proverb helps us to remember that some ties are more significant than others. Acknowledging the importance of our relationships with other people is so important.

This proverb has also been taken to have the opposite meaning. That is, it is sometimes interpreted to mean that family relationships are less important that other types of relationship. Following the Old Testament of the Bible, some people have taken ‘water’ to mean the water in the womb, and blood to mean the blood of the covenant between God and human beings. Thus, these people interpret the proverb as meaning that family relationships are weaker than the relationship between humans and God.

There is yet another interpretation of this proverb that says ‘the relationship among the soldiers is stronger than family relationships.’ In this case, blood refers to the ‘soldiers’ that fights and shed blood together for their homeland.

In addition, there is a variation of the proverb: ‘blood is thicker than milk’. Here, milk refers to a mother’s milk, and blood refers to the practice of becoming ‘blood brothers’ with someone when you are not related to them. This variant proverb signifies that strong friendships that are built up with people that we are not related to are more important than our ties with our family.

Ultimately, it is up to us which people we make most important in our lives.


1. The importance of family: This proverb emphasizes the importance of family ties, and their influence over our life.

2. Thinking about where our loyalties lie: Sometimes, we feel that we need to decide whether our friends or our family are more important. For instance, if we have been invited to spend time with friends and with family at the same time. The proverb can help us to think through where our loyalties lie.

3. Family love: This proverb celebrates the unconditional love that can run through the heart of families.

4. The importance of friendships: In its alternative interpretations (i.e. ‘blood is thicker than milk’) this proverb can also emphasize how important our friends are. Sometimes, if we have difficulties with our family, turning to our friends can be the best thing we can do.

5. Reminding us to care for our family: This proverb is great for reminding us to look after our family and to respect the strong ties between family members.

6. Understanding our family’s motivations: Sometimes, our family’s behavior can seem a little strange to us. This proverb can help us to understand the psychology behind family actions.

7. Respecting and honoring our family: This is a brilliant proverb to remember as it reminds us to have respect for our family members. We must honor our blood ties, the proverb suggests.


This is a proverb that focuses on the strength and lastingness of family ties. It has been used to celebrate family love and family loyalty.

What do you think? Do you think that the ties of friends or of family are more important in your life? Some people say that you can choose your friends but you cannot choose your family.

Alternatively, it is said that your friends are the family that you have chosen for yourself. Of course, in an ideal world, we would not have to choose between one or another type of relationship but would be able to sustain all of our relationships with love and mutual respect.

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