What Does By Hook or By Crook Mean?

By Hook or By Crook Meaning

Definition: To accomplish a goal by any means necessary.

This idiom means that anything required to achieve a goal will be done, whether it be fair or foul play. The person is determined to execute the task and will use any method necessary to do it, even if it is generally thought to be unfair, unreasonable, or illegal.

 
 

Origin of By Hook or By Crook

By hook or crook definition This Middle English phrase is very old, and it can be seen in texts as early as 1380. There are several theories as to how it originated.

The first origin story comes from medieval England, where peasants were permitted to collect as much firewood from the forest as they could using either a shepherd’s crook or a reaper’s billhook.

Another is that Oliver Cromwell wanted to land his army at either Hook Head or Crooke in Waterford, Ireland and take down the city “by Hook or by Crooke.”

While some contest the 1380 source, most agree on the legitimacy of the following citation from John Gower’s Confessio Amantis from 1390, with “hepe” being the medieval word for curved billhook,

  • What with hepe and what with croke [false Witness and Perjury] make her maister ofte winne.

The earliest modern example of the phrase comes from The Anatomie of Abuses by Philip Stubbes in 1583,

  • Either by hooke or crooke, by night or day.

Examples of By Hook or By Crook

Define hook or crook In the modern day, people use the phrase in various situations.

For example,

  • The spies were instructed to get the intelligence by hook or by crook.

-and-

  • Although everyone was conspiring against me, I was going to visit my sister by hook or by crook.

More Examples

  • Follow me on this beautiful — and sometimes bonkers — bridal journey, and by hook or by crook we’ll make it down the aisle unscathed. –Irish Times
  • They want to keep Britain in the EU by hook or by crook despite the electorate’s clear decision last June. –Morning Star

Summary

To do something by hook or by crook means that you won’t allow anything to stop you; you are determined to accomplish your goal and will do whatever it takes to get there, be it legal or illegal.