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

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

  • 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
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    Now I know where the verb "to bone" comes from. – Anderson Silva Jun 24 '11 at 15:28

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.

  • 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
  • I am sorry, does to love someone to the bone have a positive connotation? I mean, it means to love someone very deeply, a lot, very much, doesn't it? What about the verb feel (feel something to the bone), if the feeling itself is a good one (e.g. joy, gratitude), does it mean feel something very much (feel a great joy or gratitude for something)? – user3019105 Nov 29 '19 at 21:24
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    @tonix yes, it means to feel an emotion deeply, as though it completely fills your body. – Kit Z. Fox Dec 3 '19 at 16:09

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.

  • 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.


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.


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


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!


Definitely a Northern English phrase as referenced in Elbow's song "The Bones Of You"

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    Why would it be "Northern English"? The song you quote is more recent than another song mentioned on this page that has the phrase, Ana's Song, which is apparently written by an Australian. You need some better evidence to back up what you're saying. – Laurel Mar 18 '18 at 21:32

I heard Christopher Eccleston (in an NPR radio program on Vascular Dementia) say his father was struggling for words when his father said to him, "I love the bones of you."
I think it's an amazing picture of how deeply someone loves you.

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    His father was from Salford, England. – cassie Sep 14 '18 at 21:35

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