what’s bred in the bone will come out in the flesh

Lifelong habits or inherited characteristics cannot be concealed (cf. blood will tell). The form and emphasis of the proverb have been altered in recent years by the omission of a negative. Cf. medieval L. osse radicatum raro de carne recedit, that which is rooted in the bone rarely comes out from the flesh.

c 1470 MALORY Morte d’Arthur (1947) I. 550 Sir Launcelot smyled and seyde, Harde hit ys to take oute off the fleysshe that ys bredde in the bone.

1546 J. HEYWOOD Dialogue of Proverbs II. viii. K2 This prouerbe prophecied many yeres agone, It will not out of the fleshe, thats bred in the bone.

1603 J. FLORIO tr. Montaigne’s Essays III. xiii. They are effects of custome and vse: and what is bred in the bone will never out of the flesh.

1832 J. P. KENNEDY Swallow Barn III. v. What is bred in the bone—you know the proverb.

a 1957 L. I. WILDER First Four Years (1971) iv. We’ll always be farmers, for what is bred in the bone will come out in the flesh.

1981 B. HEALEY Last Ferry iv. There’s bad blood there... What’s bred in the bone comes out in the flesh.


Proverbs new dictionary.

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