Understanding the Idiom: "get blood out of a stone" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English
  • pull teeth

The English language is full of idioms, expressions that cannot be understood by their literal meaning. One such idiom is “get blood out of a stone”. This phrase is used to describe an impossible task or situation where it is extremely difficult to obtain something from someone who has nothing to give.


The origin of this idiom can be traced back to ancient times when people believed that stones had magical powers and could cure illnesses. They would grind up stones into powder and mix them with water or wine, believing that the resulting mixture would have healing properties. However, no matter how hard they tried, they could not extract blood from a stone.


In modern times, the idiom “get blood out of a stone” is used in various situations where it seems impossible to get what you want. For example, if you are trying to get information from someone who does not know anything about the topic or if you are trying to get money from someone who has none.

  • This idiom can also be used in business situations where it seems impossible to make profits or increase revenue despite all efforts.
  • It can also be applied in personal relationships where one person tries unsuccessfully to change another’s behavior or attitude towards them.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “get blood out of a stone”

The phrase “get blood out of a stone” is an idiom that has been used for centuries. It refers to attempting to extract something from someone or something that is impossible or extremely difficult to obtain. The origins of this idiom are unclear, but it is believed to have originated in ancient times.

Throughout history, stones have been seen as symbols of hardness and impenetrability. In ancient Greece, the philosopher Aristotle used the metaphor of trying to get water from a stone to describe the difficulty in obtaining knowledge from someone who is unwilling or unable to share it. Similarly, in medieval Europe, alchemists attempted to turn base metals into gold by using stones as catalysts – a task that was considered impossible.

Over time, the phrase “get blood out of a stone” became more commonly used and took on its current meaning. It has been used in literature throughout history, including in Shakespeare’s play Henry VI Part 3 where he writes: “Can I make men live whether they will or no? / O! torture me no more; I will confess.” This line illustrates how even under extreme duress one may not be able to provide information.

In modern times, this idiom continues to be widely used across different cultures and languages. It remains an effective way of describing situations where getting what you want seems impossible.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “get blood out of a stone”

The idiom “get blood out of a stone” is commonly used in English to describe an impossible task or situation. It refers to the idea that it is as difficult to extract blood from a stone as it is to achieve something that is seemingly impossible.

While the basic meaning of the idiom remains consistent, there are variations in its usage depending on context and intent. For example, some may use the phrase humorously or sarcastically, while others may use it more seriously to convey frustration or hopelessness.

Additionally, there are different ways in which people may modify or adapt the idiom for their own purposes. Some examples include changing “stone” to other objects such as turnips or carrots, adding adjectives like “harder than” or “more difficult than,” and using different verbs like “squeeze” instead of “get.”

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “get blood out of a stone”


1. Squeeze water from a rock 6. Extract oil from sand
2. Pull teeth from a chicken 7. Draw blood from a turnip
3. Milk a bull 8. Get juice from an onion
4. Strain at gnats and swallow camels 9. Take feathers off a frog
5. Skin a flint 10. Make bricks without straw

The above expressions are used to convey the idea of attempting to extract something that is impossible or extremely difficult to obtain.


The following expressions can be considered as antonyms for “get blood out of a stone” as they imply ease in obtaining something:

Ease in obtaining something:
Breeze through it/them
Cake walk
Duck soup
Easy as pie
Child’s play

Cultural Insights

The idiom “get blood out of a stone” is commonly used in English-speaking countries to describe an impossible or extremely difficult task. It has its origins in ancient Greek mythology, where the story of Cadmus and the dragon’s teeth was told. In this story, Cadmus had to sow dragon’s teeth into the ground to create an army. When he tried to get them back, it was like trying to extract blood from a stone.

In some cultures, similar idioms are used with different objects such as “squeezing water from a rock” in Spanish-speaking countries and “getting milk from a male goat” in Arabic-speaking countries.

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “get blood out of a stone”

In order to truly master an idiom, it is important to not only understand its meaning but also be able to use it in practical situations. The following exercises will help you improve your ability to use the idiom “get blood out of a stone” effectively.

Exercise Description
1 Write a short story or dialogue using the idiom “get blood out of a stone”. This will help you practice incorporating the idiom into natural conversation.
2 Create flashcards with sentences containing the idiom on one side and their meanings on the other. Use these cards to test yourself and memorize different ways of using the expression.
3 Watch movies or TV shows that feature characters using idioms in their dialogue. Pay attention to how they are used and try incorporating them into your own speech patterns.

The more you practice using idioms like “get blood out of a stone”, the easier it will become to incorporate them naturally into your conversations. With time and effort, you’ll be able to communicate more effectively and impress others with your mastery of English idiomatic expressions!

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “get blood out of a stone”

When using idioms, it is important to understand their meaning and usage in context. The idiom “get blood out of a stone” is commonly used to describe a situation where someone is trying to get something from another person who does not have it or cannot provide it. However, there are common mistakes that people make when using this idiom that can lead to confusion or misinterpretation.

One mistake is using the idiom too broadly, without considering its specific meaning. For example, saying “I tried to get my friend to lend me money, but he was like getting blood out of a stone” may not be accurate if your friend actually has the money but simply doesn’t want to lend it. Another mistake is assuming that the idiom always refers to a difficult or impossible task – sometimes it can be used more loosely as an exaggeration.

Another mistake is failing to consider cultural differences in language use. While this idiom may be well-known and understood in some English-speaking countries, it may not be familiar or easily understood by those from other cultures or non-native speakers of English.

Lastly, using idioms incorrectly can also result in unintended offense or confusion. It’s important to use idioms appropriately and with consideration for your audience.

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