What Does Through Thick and Thin Mean?

Through Thick and Thin Meaning

Definition: To endure through any hardships or obstacles.

Origin of Through Thick and Thin

This expression in its current form has existed for several hundred years. Its first recorded use was in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which were written between 1387 and 1400.

This phrase appeared specifically in The Reeve’s Tale:

And whan the hors was laus, he gynneth gon

Toward the fen, ther wilde mares renne,

And forth with “wehee,” thurgh thikke and thurgh thenne.

Other early uses include Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, written in 1590.

  • “His tyreling Jade he fiersly forth did push. Through thicke and thin, both over banck and bushe.”

This phrase is alluding to travel through dense forest, so if someone were to stay with you through thick and thin, he or she would accompany you in both thick patches of wilderness as well as sparse vegetation.

The literal use of the phrase originally began as through thicket and thin wood. It meant to go through the English countryside, through all the undergrowth and plant obstacles.

Examples of Through Thick and Thin

through thick and thin idiom meaningHere is an example of two family members using the expression while having dinner.

Grandmother: What’s wrong? You seem upset.

Granddaughter: My teacher accused me of cheating. I’m supposed to go talk to the principal tomorrow. I could get suspended from school, or even expelled.

Grandmother: They’d better not try to expel you! I’ll make sure they realize that you’re innocent.

Granddaughter: How do you know I didn’t do it?

Grandmother: I trust you.

Granddaughter: Will you really help me fight this?

Grandmother: Of course! I’ll always be there for you, through thick and thin.

define through thick and thinThe second dialogue shows a daughter and her father discussing some challenges the daughter is having at school.

Father: How’s school going?

Daughter: It’s too hard. I think I should just drop out.

Father: Nonsense. You can’t give up. Maybe I can help. What’s so hard about it?

Daughter: There’s way too much work to do. I start doing homework the minute I get home, and I don’t stop until I go to bed. I even study in the shower. I tape my notes to the door and read them while I wash myself!

Father: Hmm. That does seem like too much work. Maybe you should drop one or two of your classes and replace it with a study hall.

Daughter: I thought you said I should never give up, and that I should keep trying, through thick and thin.

Father: That’s true, but there are more important things than homework. I don’t want you to be too stressed. Your mental health is the most important thing.

More Examples

This excerpt is about how people within the same political party work together despite hardships.

  • In recent years, Americans have gotten used to seeing partisans in Washington stick with their allies through thick and thin. Barack Obama got no Republican support for the Affordable Care Act. The GOP replacement bill passed the House recently with all 193 Democrats voting no. Truly bipartisan efforts on major issues are vanishingly rare. –Chicago Tribune

This excerpt is about baseball fans continuing to support their local team despite many losses.

  • You try to be reasonable about it. You try to explain the reasons for it to people and hope they continue to support you. Bears fans have been just unbelievably supportive through thick and thin over decades, and I had a chance to see that first-hand in 20 years in the ticket office. –Chicago Tribune

Summary

The idiom through thick and thin is a way to describe something that will continue regardless of any troubles or difficult times in the way.

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