English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Where did the expression 'love someone to the bones' come from?

And is the meaning 'love someone too much' correct for that?

share|improve this question
I like this phrase; I've never heard it before. Where did you hear it? – Kit Z. Fox Jun 24 '11 at 13:46
I heard it on a song a while ago, but I don't remember which one it was :( – Felipe Sabino Jun 24 '11 at 13:54
Now I know where the verb "to bone" comes from. – Anderson Silva Jun 24 '11 at 15:28
up vote 8 down vote accepted

With regard to the song in which you heard it, the phrase has a double meaning. That's probably why you have the impression that it means too much. The song is Silverchair's Ana's Song (Open Fire) and it's about anorexia (ana is teencode for anorexia). The double meaning is "to the bone" as in deeply (see @Kiamlaluno's answer) as well as in the sense of the skin-and-bone appearance of an anorexic body.

share|improve this answer
uow! ana's song! that's the one!! – Felipe Sabino Jun 24 '11 at 14:17
@Felipe I think so. It's the only one I found with that phrase. It's not nearly so nice in that context. – Kit Z. Fox Jun 24 '11 at 14:18

As reported by the NOAD, to the bone means:

  • (of a wound) so deep as to expose a person's bone: his thigh had been axed open to the bone.
  • (figurative) his contempt cut her to the bone.
  • (especially of cold) affecting a person in a penetrating way: chilled to the bone.
  • (or to one's bones) used to emphasize that a person has a specified quality in an overwhelming or fundamental way: she's a New Englander to her bones.

In I love her to the bones, I would interpret to the bones as deeply, not as too much.

share|improve this answer
I think this gives a very good sense of the various meanings of "to the bone." – Kit Z. Fox Jun 24 '11 at 14:15

The meaning of this idiom is

to the bone
as completely as possible

It can apply not only to love.

To match that meaning with "love someone too much", you would have to use either specific context or specific attitude.

share|improve this answer

It is often said on British films and TV shows. Two possible meanings are:

I love him/her to bits.

I love every little thing about him or her.

share|improve this answer

It clearly means 'deeply, all the way through, totally' and no double meaning.

share|improve this answer

It's an old fashioned originating from the North of England. My Liverpudlian friend uses it a lot particularly when reminiscing about her gran. "I loved the bones of that woman". In essence she loved her to bits!

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.