he ain't heavy


Senior Member
could you please tell me what the phrase "he ain´t heavy" means? It is the title of the well-known song...

"He ain´t heavy, he´s my brother"

Thank you very much
  • Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    It means heavy, figuratively, in the sense of a burden. This is evident throughout the lyric:

    "His welfare is of my concern
    No burden is he to bear"

    The metaphor is of carrying another person, used to mean support (e.g. emotionally, spiritually), look after, care for, etc. There is a rather religious sentiment to this song.


    Senior Member
    Long before the "well-known" song, the expression was very widely known in the U.S., through its association with Boys Town. For the history of that institution, have a look at the Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boys_Town_(organization)

    It is an orphanage in Nebraska, founded in 1921. It has since expanded to many other locations in the U.S. Starting at least as far back as the late 1940s, the orphanage used Christmas seals to raise funds. They showed a boy carrying another, smaller child, and bore the legend, "He Ain't Heavy Father He's M' Brother." These were ubiquitous on Christmas cards for decades. Here is a picture of the seals.

    The meaning is exactly what Matching Mole has described.