Internet searching suggests the phrase "born and bred in Boston" means the same thing as "born and raised in Boston."

But "bred" is the past-tense of "breed."

Might "born and bred in Boston" have originally meant "born in Boston to parents who lived in Boston at the time of conception"?

  • 2
    Hm. I've always mentally read it as "born and bread". As in, I was born, and then I horrifyingly transmogrified into bread. That may not be correct, but it's certainly more fun. I vote that for the official interpretation. Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 22:15
  • In Britain we do not raise children as they do in the United States, we bring them up. We raise sheep, pigs, goats, ducks, chickens etc, and we even raise potatoes. But children are brought up and later refer to their upbringing rather than where they were raised.
    – WS2
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 23:59
  • @ParthianShot Mine's not nearly as fun as yours (nor any more correct), but I've always thought that the author of my school's Fight Song was merely taking poetic license with the natural order of these two biological events in order to make the lyrics rhyme!
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 13:51
  • @PapaPoule Indeed. Well, I know in rural Alabama the phrase "born and inbred". Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 1:11

2 Answers 2


The saying born and bred dates back at least to the 17th century as shown in Ngram. To breed at that time already meant also to grow up ( late 14th c.) so there is not reason to suppose that the expression had originally a meaning different from the contemporary one.

Born and bred:

  • used to say that someone was born and grew up in a particular place, and has the typical character of someone who lives there:

Breed (v.): (Etymonline)

  • Old English bredan "bring young to birth, carry," also "cherish, keep warm," from West Germanic *brodjan (cognates: Old High German bruoten, German brüten "to brood, hatch"), from *brod- "fetus, hatchling," from PIE *bhreue- "burn, heat" (see brood (n.)). Original notion of the word was incubation, warming to hatch. Sense of "grow up, be reared" ( in a clan, etc.) is late 14c.
  • 1
    When I first heard this used, which would have been in the late 1940s, people in England used to say 'bred and born'. And that seems more logical than 'born and bred', since 'breed' would seem to me to have more to do with conception than with upbringing.
    – WS2
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 23:55
  • so WS2, are you saying that the British meaning of "bred and born in Britain" is akin to "born in Britain to parents who lived in Britain at the time of conception"? Or would 'bred and born' have same meaning as 'born and bred'?
    – Shane F.
    Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 18:03
  • RE: "born and bred," to WS2--you Britishers do not maintain exclusivity of the term "brought up." That term, along with "raised" and "grew up," are also used in the United States, more or less synonymously, to describe how, when and where a person has lived in her/his formative years, generally ages 0-18 years old. By the way, I was actually born and bred in the Greater Boston area. Greater Boston is a term encompassing Boston proper and its more immediate suburban environs within about 25 miles in any direction.
    – user196162
    Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 1:37

According to the OED,

to be born and bred, or bred and born: an alliterative phrase in which bred has usually sense 9, though formerly sense 1.

1542 N. Udall tr. Erasmus Apophthegmes f. 133v

In the same Isle born, breden, and brought vp.

a1616 Shakespeare Twelfth Night (1623) i. ii. 20

I was bred and borne Not three houres trauaile from this very place.

Sense 9 is that of animal husbandry, whereas sense 1 is of

trans. Said of a female parent: To cherish (brood) in the womb or egg; to bring (offspring) forward from the germ to the birth; to hatch (young birds) from the egg; to produce (offspring, children).

This suggests that bred and born would indeed be more congruent with the chronology of gravidity and parturition, but binomial word order does not depend on such things, hence thunder and lightning. Or perhaps, in the reverse process of kith and kin, people came to associate the saying with a different sense of breed. Right after its entry for born and bred, the OED attests to breed meaning

  1. To train up to a state of physical or mental development. … b. To train up (young persons) in the arts of life; to educate, tutor, bring up. … †(a) To train by education, educate, teach. Obs. (b) To bring up from childhood, including all the circumstances which go to form the religious persuasion, manners, position in life, and trade.
  • +1 for "To train up to a state of physical or mental development. …"
    – Kris
    Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 6:17

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