Honor Among Thieves Meaning
Definition: Thieves will not steal from each other.
In other words, this proverb says that criminals observe a moral code of honor in that they do not do anything illegal to their partners in crime.
In British English, this proverb is spelled honour among thieves.
Origin of Honor Among Thieves
The idea behind this expression exists in many different languages. The English playwright William Shakespeare used it at the end of the 1500s in his play Henry IV.
Plato discussed the concept in Greek in his work Republic, which dates all the way back to 380 B.C.
The opposite view there is no honor among thieves is a contrasting proverb. People may believe one or the other, and they may say either to suit their current situation.
Examples of Honor Among Thieves
In this example, a man uses the expression while talking to his friend about his brother.
Rodrigo: My brother is in jail.
Alisha: On no! What happened?
Rodrigo: Well, the police arrested him because he was part of a crime ring selling drugs. The police offered him a deal. If he just tells them who the leader of the gang is, and where to find him, they will let my brother go.
Alisha: That’s great!
Rodrigo: It doesn’t matter. My brother won’t give the police any information. I asked him why, and he claimed it was honor among thieves.
In the example below, two friends are discussing the criminal past that one of them had.
Luis: What is something that I don’t know about you?
Stephanie: When I was younger, I used to shoplift with some of my friends.
Stephanie: Yeah. I stopped when one of those friends accused me of stealing from her. It wasn’t true. I never stole from her, but she said something about how there was no honor among thieves, and that she couldn’t trust me anymore.
This excerpt is from an article about FBI investigations into terrorism using informants.
- ‘‘I grew up in the old school,’’ Torres would often tell Cabral. ‘‘I got morals and principles.’’ He had an odd reformulation of the Golden Rule: ‘‘I have always believed there is honor among thieves. You respect the next thief.’’ –New York Times
This excerpt is about criminals who did something honorable and unexpected.
- There is honor among thieves. A group of Texas inmates busted out of their cell to save a prison guard having a heart attack. –New York Daily News
The phrase honor among thieves means thieves have their own moral code amongst themselves.