Blood is thicker than water: the full quote and its origin

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The way movies and TV shows drive our curiosities over is often fascinating. They help us discover legends, they teach us history, they let us explore people’s psychology, and sometimes, they lead us to deepen the origin of proverbs. It’s what happened with Thicker Than Water, the 2023 Netflix series titled after a famous English saying, “Blood is thicker than water.” What’s the original full quote? What’s its meaning, and how it arrived in our days from the origin?

You can watch the official trailer for Thicker Than Water here on Youtube.

“Blood is thicker than water”: the full quote, the story, and its origin

The proverb “Blood is thicker than water” is commonly used to express the idea that family ties (blood ties) are stronger than any other social bond or relationship. The phrase has been around for centuries, and it is often used to emphasize the importance of family loyalty and the idea that family should always come first. If family represents a blood tie, saying that “blood is thicker than water” means that family matters more than any other bond you can develop in life.

The origin of the proverb is actually debated. According to Wikipedia, which offers the most common interpretation, the first appearance of the quote can be related to Reynard the Fox, the Medieval cycle of fables by the German author Heinrich der Glîchezære. In the manuscript from the 13th century, we can find the following full quote (translated from German):

“I also hear it said that kin blood is not spoiled by water”

In the original meaning, the sentence intends to praise the importance of family bonds as something that cannot be affected by water (which represents the light consistency of other types of bonds). The quote appeared over the centuries in many forms. It was heavily used in Scotland’s 18th and 19th centuries, reinforcing the abovementioned meaning. 

However, according to some modern interpretations, the quote is an alternate version of another phrase, “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb,” which actually has the opposite meaning. In this other version, a blood covenant acquires the utmost importance: it is more potent than family bonds, now represented by “the water” of the womb. This saying is believed to come from the military environment, referring to the idea that soldiers who fight together and shed blood together in battle create a stronger bond than biological brothers.

It’s worth pointing out that this interpretation has no proven sources. In contrast, the sentence coming from the Medieval fables is well documented. In any case, the quote “blood is thicker than water” remains a popular expression today. Some people use it to justify putting family first, even when it may not be the best choice for their individual needs or goals. Others view it as a reminder that family relationships should be treasured and nurtured and can provide a strong foundation of support and love throughout one’s life.