I'm looking for an English (UK) idiom which I think might be similar to "I can only follow my roots" and means that I can only act in the way I was raised.

  • 3
    Like father, like son. The apple doesn't fall very far from the tree.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 1:50
  • 2
    A leopard can't change his spots.
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 2:49

3 Answers 3


"As the twig is bent, so grows the tree." It's based on a bit of Pope:

'Tis education forms the common mind,
Just as the twig is bent the tree's inclined

The saying is used in the US. I assume, given its source, that is also used in the UK.

  • I forgot to mention "The child is father of the man," also from an English poet. (William Wordsworth, in "My Heart Leaps Up.") thoughtco.com/child-is-the-father-of-man-3975052
    – remarkl
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 4:23
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    I have never heard it used in my region of the UK but that's not to say other dialects don't.
    – Sarriesfan
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 16:28

Similar to phrase In question one can say :

I remember my roots./I can’t [won’t] forget my roots./I remember where I came from.

Numerous examples of above online and I’m not sure if there is a clear original source. On a similar vein, I like this quote:

I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.
Abraham Lincoln.


Wolfgang Mieder, A Dictionary of American Proverbs (1992) identifies multiple variants of the following proverb, which may be on point:

What is bred in the bone will come out in the flesh.

Mieder says that this expression goes back to circa 1290, with a first recorded North American occurrence in 1637. The idea is that what is most deeply embedded in a person or thing will find expression closer to the surface as well.

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