There's a very interesting asian saying, describing dichotomy of a person's attitude towards others.

My quote is probably incorrect, but it says roughy:

"I'm against my brother, I'm with my brother against my cousin, I'm with my brother and cousin against everyone else"

Can you help me recall, how this saying sounds exactly and what nation it belongs to?

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    You're asking about an English translation of an Asian saying on an English Q&A site focused on the English language....? – Mari-Lou A Sep 25 '18 at 13:01
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    It's a recognised topic in the UK. You hate your immediate neighbour, but you'll unite against the "next level up" neighbour. So Southampton hates Portsmouth, but they'll unite as Hampshire in hating West Sussex, who they'll unite with as Southerners to hate Northerners, who they'll unite with as English to hate the Scottish, who they'll unite with as British to hate the French, who they'll unite with as European to hate the Americans. The only way we'll get the world to unite is if we have some aliens for us to hate together. – AndyT Sep 25 '18 at 14:01
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    A UK-based stand up comedian made a joke out of this once. But I can't remember who, which makes googling for a quote very difficult. But, in answer to your question, there's no established idiom that I know of for this. – AndyT Sep 25 '18 at 14:02
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is asking for a foreign proverb. – Mari-Lou A Sep 25 '18 at 14:29

A quick Google search reveals this to be of Arabic (specifically, Bedouin) origin. There is no single exact translation. Wikipedia says:

A widely quoted Bedouin apothegm is "I am against my brother, my brother and I are against my cousin, my cousin and I are against the stranger" sometimes quoted as "I and my brother are against my cousin, I and my cousin are against the stranger."

but you will also see:

“Me against my brother. Me and my brother against my cousin. Me and my cousin against a stranger”.


I, against my brothers. I and my brothers against my cousins. I and my brothers and my cousins against the world.

I don't know of an English equivalent. Perhaps the nearest would be:

Blood is thicker than water.

  • Thank you so much, this is exactly the saying, I was looking for! – Boris Burkov Sep 25 '18 at 17:55
  • I can't follow it. Blood at any dilution is thicker than water? Paraphrased English equivalent of mid-east Asian idiom. – user22542 Sep 25 '18 at 21:19
  • @user22542 Not sure what your difficulty is. It's a proverb, not a scientific observation. – michael.hor257k Sep 25 '18 at 22:56
  • Please, don't -1 this answer, it's 100% correct and helped me a lot! If you absolutely have to -1 somebody for this, please, -1 my question. – Boris Burkov Sep 26 '18 at 22:18

Not every single phrase you can think of is a cute saying in English. "Blood is thicker than water" is used to indicate that people tend to side with family more than strangers, but it doesn't have the "I'm always going to be fighting with someone" attitude you are looking for.


It sounds a very much like the commonly understood idiom "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". This would obviously transcend {but also include} familial relationships. It's exact origin is apparently ancient (usually attributed to Sanscrit writings of ancient India), but it is also a current, common English idiom.



  • Thanks for answer, @user22542. No, the point of this idiom is completely different - it's about the way this culture treats every person, even family, as a rival, as long as there're no more alien rivals. It's a saying of one of Near Eastern nations, I believe. – Boris Burkov Sep 25 '18 at 13:33
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    Sorry - I misunderstood and could not be of more help. I do not know of such and equivalent in English. This is an English Language and Usage SE site. – user22542 Sep 25 '18 at 13:43

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