What Does Chalk and Cheese Mean?

Chalk and Cheese Meaning

Definition: Two very different things.

Origin of Chalk and Cheese

This expression originated in the latter part of the 1300s. It is unclear exactly how it started—other than the two items being completely difference. It is possible that its alliteration made it more popular.

The earliest known example of this phrase is in John Gower’s Middle English text Confessio Amantis (1390)

  • Lo, how they feignen chalk for chese.

In modern speech and writing, this phrase has now been mostly replaced by like apples and oranges.

Examples of Chalk and Cheese

chalk and cheese idiom meaningIn the example below, two siblings are talking to each other about the girl one of them is dating.

Jordan: Hey, James. I heard you are dating Clara. Is that true?

James: Yeah. Why?

Jordan: I was just surprised to hear that because the two of you don’t seem like you’d date each other.

James: Why do you say that?

Jordan: Well, you are into playing sports, going to parties, and watching TV shows. She’s into going to school, reading books, and doing crafts.

James: So I can only date someone with the same hobbies as me?

Jordan: No, but your personalities are different, too. The two of you are as different as chalk and cheese. It just surprised me. That’s all.

chalk and cheese origin In the second dialogue, two coworkers are discussing the needs of their two major clients.

Job: So I know you are still pretty new at this company, but I think you’re ready to take on a new project.

Melissa: What is it?

Job: We have two major clients. You’ve already been working on stuff for one of them. I’d like you to start working on an ad campaign for the other.

Melissa: That sounds great!

Job: So, as you know, the first company is a very old, respectable institution, so they like their ads to be elegant and understated. This other company is totally different. They like their ads to be edgy and impossible to ignore. They are as different as chalk and cheese.

More Example

This quote is about two musicians whose differences caused tension, but also helped them to be more creative.

  • “It’s funny, it was one of those situations where the friction, the chalk and cheese thing, that made it so difficult also made it interesting,” Sexton says. “Now what we’ve just chosen to focus on is that inspiration because the chemistry between Doyle and I never ceased. If anything, we have more in common now than just some of those influences that were there previously.” –Houston Chronicle

The second example is about a famous pop singer and a famous country singer who started dating. The writer believes they are very different because they have different musical styles.

  • The world may scoff at this seemingly chalk-and-cheese pairing who are still reeling from their divorces, but who needs them? –New York Post


The saying like chalk and cheese are two nouns that represent two dissimilar things.