In my native language there is an idiom which literally says "grab one, hit the other". It is used to express that a group of people possesses the same negative personal traits, habits, vice, etc. and usually it shows frustration and/or annoyance.

My question is: Is there any idiom in English which is identical/comes close to the above meaning?

  • 1
    I don't quite get the meaning you want here. Are you just looking for something condescending to say about a group of people who annoy you because they all exhibit the same annoying trait/habit/vice, etc? Along the of "those guys are just a bunch of thumbsuckers"? (or whatever their shared trait happens to be) Or is it closer to "thumbsuckers are a dime a dozen"?
    – Jim
    Feb 9, 2014 at 4:16
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    @Jim it is mostly used when it's assumed or presumed that the people shouldn't all possess that trait/habit but in the end it turns out that everyone is the same. For example, politicians from opposing parties. They may take contrary stands but in the end of the day, they are selfishly following their own interests.
    – Rayhunter
    Feb 9, 2014 at 13:49
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    Maybe "Scratch a liar, find a thief"?
    – Sven Yargs
    Feb 14, 2014 at 1:08
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    "Cut from the same cloth"
    – moonstar
    Feb 18, 2014 at 9:38
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    I've assumed the literal meaning is, you go to grab one person, but they are so close together that you may easily hit the other one in the process.
    – barbecue
    Oct 26, 2014 at 18:53

5 Answers 5


Tarred with the same brush would be the first choice.

Fig. sharing the same characteristic(s); having the same good or bad points as someone else.

Jack and his brother are tarred with the same brush. They're both crooks. The Smith children are tarred with the same brush. They're all lazy.


You can also consider six of one, half a dozen of the other also. It does not have a negative meaning and it is usually used when you think that neither of two choices or people is better than the other.

  1. (idiomatic) The two alternatives are equivalent or indifferent; it doesn't matter which one we choose.
  2. (idiomatic, of two people) Equally involved; equally responsible



There is "one bad apple spoils the barrel".


One expression for this is "Robbing Peter to pay Paul." That is, using one person to "pay off" another.


The idiom you are looking for is "to rob Peter to pay Paul," meaning that you borrow something from someone to give it to someone else.

The expression is said to have its origins in the times before the Reformation when Church taxes had to be paid to St. Paul's church in London and to St. Peter's church in Rome; originally it referred to neglecting the Peter tax in order to have money to pay the Paul tax.

(More information can be found in http://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/rob_Peter_to_pay_Paul)

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    I don't think this is really relevant. Robbing Peter to pay Paul doesn't imply that Peter and Paul have anything else in common, they may not even know each other.
    – barbecue
    Oct 26, 2014 at 18:49

Saying that people are "birds of a feather" has a similar meaning. It suggests that people who share common traits tend to hang out with each other, and vice versa.

While it's not inherently negative, recent usage definitely implies that the specific trait is an undesirable one.


"Mike and Steve got caught shoplifting the other day" "Well, they're birds of a feather so that's not surprising."


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