A chip off the old block

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Serbia, Serbian
I know the expression "a chip off the old block" means that someone looks like one of their parents, but some dictionaries say that it refers only to character, whereas other state it refers to both character and appearance. In addition, according to a few dictionaries, when you say someone is a chip off the old block, it means they are like their fathers, not mothers. Can anyone please clarify this?
  • grubble

    Senior Member
    British English
    I have only heard it used when referring to a son whose character is similar to his father's. That doesn't mean that this is the only meaning. It just happens to be my personal experience.

    What do others think?


    Senior Member
    English UK
    My experience is similar to grubble's. To me, it refers to (a) character rather than appearance (b) a son acting or sounding like his father (not mother).

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    I haven't done any research into the origin of the phrase ("look it up when you get home", as my prof used to say), but maybe the clue is in the words "chip" and "block". I think it refers to wood, so the chip (the very small piece of wood) won't look exactly the same as the block (the large piece of wood) from which it came, but it will have the same characteristics (e.g. hardwood/softwood, easy to cut/hard to cut, splits easily/doesn't split easily, has many knots/doesn't have many knots, etc).

    However I do think it's also used for appearance.


    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    It can refer to any number of things. I've seen it used to refer to athletic ability when a son excels in the same sport that his father did. Within my family, I've heard it used to describe a nephew of mine who attended the same university that his father (my brother) had attended a quarter-century before. Others can surely find other examples, or I could if I wanted to spend more time on this post. You have to figure out what it means in a specific situation from context.
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