a man is known by the company he keeps

Originally used as a moral maxim or exhortation in the context of (preparation for) marriage.

1541 M. COVERDALE tr. H. Bullinger’s Christian State of Matrimony F6 So maye much be spyed also, by the company and pastyme that a body vseth. For a man is for the moost parte condicioned euen lyke vnto them that he kepeth company wythe all.

1591 H. SMITH Preparative to Marriage 42 If a man can be known by nothing els, then he maye bee known by his companions.

1672 W. WYCHERLEY Love in Wood I. i. There is a Proverb, Mrs. Joyner, You may know him by his Company.

1912 ‘SAKI’ Chronicles of Clovis 286 (heading) A man is known by the company he keeps.

1976 L. ALTHER Kinflicks ii. People knew a man by the company he kept, but they generally knew a woman by the man who kept her.

2002 Washington Times 5 Feb. A19 Planned Parenthood denies that [Margaret] Sanger was a racist or an eugenicist, but there’s truth to the adage that we are known by the company we keep.


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