I would like to know if there are any words that express the idea of something being "different, but the same". I'm open to interpretations, such as negative/duplicitous (wolf in sheep's clothing) but I'm really wondering if there's a specific term for this idea that something appears to be new and alien, but is actually familiar.

I realize there's an asian phrase "same-same but different", and that seems to be the reverse of what I'm looking for, as it promises something you know but is quite disparate in the end.

  • Adapting the construction you mentioned, different-different but same? :P – Lawrence Sep 9 '17 at 12:38
  • Consider equivalent, similar, or your own term, familiar. For an idiom, there's nothing new under the sun. Which term is most appropriate depends on how you intend to use it. Please edit your question to provide some context for the word/idiom/expression you're asking for. – Lawrence Sep 9 '17 at 12:38
  • Old wine in a new bottle will look like 'different-different but same'! – mahmud k pukayoor Sep 9 '17 at 15:56
  • There is such a term but few of us see as applying outside biology or natural history. Variety prolly isn't defined that way in any dictionary, but isn't it precisely the relationship of a variety to its species? (I love mahmud's wine reference… ) – Robbie Goodwin Sep 11 '17 at 21:28

There is the idiom the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Many things remain consistent even as changes happen. The phrase is often said in a resigned or sarcastic tone.
We move into a fancy new office, and still, the server crashes all the time. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The Free Dictonary by FARLEX

There are similar expressions such as different name, same game, or same crap, different day.


"It's just last year's model with a new coat of paint."

"It's just last year's model with a facelift."

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