Idioms about Mothers

Mother's Day is a time to show our respect and gratitude to our mothers. Here a list of idioms about mothers.

Mother and Child

A list of idioms about mothers

at your mother's knee

said about something that you learned when you were a child.

She learned to sing at her mother's knee.

bring home the bacon

If you bring home the bacon, you work hard to earn money to satisfy your basic needs and those of your family.


There are different theories about the origin of the phrase. One theory stipulates that the expression goes back to 1104. A couple was so devoted to each other in a town called Dunmow in Essex, England that the Prior (i.e., mayor) was impressed by their devotion and offered them a flitch (i.e., the flank of a pig.) Later, a competition, called the Dunmow Flitch, where couples show their devotion to each other and win a prize was started in the town and continues every four years.

Another theory about the origin goes back to 1906 when Joe Gans won a boxing championship. It is testified that Joe Gans’ mother had sent him a telegram before the fight telling him that everybody is expecting him to win and that he had to bring home the bacon. When he won, he responded that he:
"had not only the bacon, but the gravy."

When her husband got fired, she decided to look for a job because someone's got to bring home the bacon.
He works hard to bring home the bacon for his family.

expectant mother

a pregnant woman.

There are many good tips for expectant mothers in this little book.

experience is the mother of wisdom

this idiom is used to mean that people learn from what happens to them.

You will never understand the love parents have for their children until you get your own children. Experience is really the mother of wisdom.

face (that) only a mother could love

a very ugly face.

Look at that poor girl. That's a face that only a mother could love.

he that would the daughter win, must with the mother first begin

This is a proverb which means that if you intend to marry a woman, first try to win her mother on your side.

Listen Joe, if you want to marry Nancy, try to impress her mother first and be sure that she is on your side. He that would the daughter win, must with the mother first begin.

like father, like son

The phrase like father, like son is an idiomatic expression that indicates that fathers and sons resemble each other or that sons tend to behave like their fathers.

Another variation of this idiom is:

like mother, like daughter.

Alan decided to start a business online - like father, like son.

like mother, like daughter

This is a proverb which means that daughters resemble their mothers.

Related idioms:

Like father like son
To be cut from the same cloth
To be a chip off the same block
To run in the family

1. My mother was mad about chocolate. Every time my father saw me eating chocolate, he would say, "Like mother, like daughter."

2. Nancy: "Liza has an eye for fashion. She always looks for the latest trends."
Kate: "Like mother, like daughter. Her mother is mad about fashion, too."

necessity is the mother of invention

This proverb means that when people really need to do something, they will find a way to do it.

When her pen had run out of ink, she used her lipstick to write a short note to her husband who was at work.

over my dead body

If you say something will happen over your dead body, you mean that you will not allow it to happen.


The phrase has been in use for centuries. One of the earliest uses was by Harriet Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1850:
“I’ll give my last drop of blood, but they shall not take you from me. Whosoever gets you must walk over my dead body!”

This hyperbolic adverbial phrase is used as a defiant phrase showing the strength of one's resistance to something. What it means is that someone is ready to do whatever they can to stop something from happening.

One may imagine that the expression was first used in serious situations a long time ago. Warriors would defend whatever they cared about and would not surrender until they were killed. To get what they want, the other person would have to kill the knight and walk over his body.

The phrase is also used jokingly. For instance, a mother would respond to her overweight son who wants more chocolate: “that will be over my dead body”

He says he will become our new manager. Over my dead body!
Sure, you can marry my daughter! Over my dead body.
You want more chocolate. Well, that will be over my dead body.

scarlet woman

The phrase a scarlet woman refers to a prostitute, an immoral woman, particularly one who commits adultery.

The phrase was first used in Revelation 17:5 where a sinful woman was described:

17:4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
17:5 And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. [King James Version; the New International Version uses "prostitutes" instead of "harlots"].

She was the scarlet woman of the town.

the angel in the house

The angel in the house refers to a virtuous, subservient, and loyal housewife to her husband and family.


This idiom alludes to Coventry Patmore's narrative poem The Angel in the House, first published in 1854. The poem was a romanticized depiction of Patmore's first wife, Emily Augusta Andrews, whom he thought to be the ideal woman.

Despite the feminist quest for greater equality between men and women, the idea that a married woman, particularly a mother, should be the angel in the house persists.

The phrase is now commonly used to challenge or criticize this concept of femininity as a model. Feminist writers mocked this image of housewives.

Virginia Woolf ridiculed the angel and ideal of femininity portrayed in the poem. She wrote that “she [the perfect wife] was intensely sympathetic… Above all, she was pure.” She added that the angel in the house
"bothered me and wasted my time and so tormented me that at last I killed her"

The image of the middle-class woman as the angel in the house might easily be exaggerated.
She established an image of herself as the good mother, the generous angel in the house.

the milk of human kindness

idioms in English - Milk of human nature

The phrase the milk of human kindness refers to the quality of kindness and the innate sense of compassion towards other people.

The origin of the phrase

The phrase comes from Shakespeare's tragic play Macbeth:
Lady Macbeth:
Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be
What thou art promis'd. Yet do I fear thy nature,
It is too full o' th' milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way.

Lady Macbeth, who is very ambitious, complains that her husband is too kind to kill the king and achieve his goals. He is rather a person who acts as a good man and doesn’t have the type of nature needed to take action and get the throne.

The reference to milk in the phrase may refer to mothers' milk. When mothers breastfeed their babies, this is seen as an act of self-sacrifice, love, and compassion.

She is filled with the milk of human kindness.
John is quite rude and greedy; he lacks the milk of human kindness.
People take advantage of Alan because he is too full of the milk of human kindness.
I don't think she would do anything that evil; she has the milk of human kindness in her.

the mother of all

an extreme example which is the biggest, most impressive, or most important of its kind.

Failure is the mother of all success.

More idioms

Other Related materials:

Mother's Day
Mother's Day jokes
International Women's Day