I'm reading one of Aesop's fables:

A CHARCOAL-BURNER carried on his trade in his own house. One day he met a friend, a Fuller, and entreated him to come and live with him, saying that they should be far better neighbors and that their housekeeping expenses would be lessened. The Fuller replied, "The arrangement is impossible as far as I am concerned, for whatever I should whiten, you would immediately blacken again with your charcoal."

Like will draw like.

What's the meaning of draw in the last sentence? I've checked the Oxford English dictionary but still cannot understand it.

  • 1
    It becomes clear if you consider the moral of the story. One is surrounded by charcoal and its black dust, the other, presumably working with chalk, would not be a good fit in the charcoal-burner's house. People with similar interests can live together, not otherwise. The punch line, therefore, says, anything will attract only what is similar to itself.
    – Kris
    Dec 26 '11 at 7:06
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    @Kris Just so you know, a Fuller is someone who cleans wool (or other base fibers like cotton) for use in making fabrics. Basically they clean all the crap and oils and what not out that the sheep got stuck in their wool. They don't work with chalk, but instead old, stale urine for the high ammonia content, pretty much by stomping on the wool in vats of urine, at least at the time this story was written. That's right, there were people for thousands of years whose job description was "standing in a vat of urine stomping on wool all day."
    – Phoenix
    Dec 26 '11 at 8:03
  • @Phoenix: Oh! I didn't know this. Why capitalize fuller, if that's a vocation/ trade like carpenter/tinker?
    – Kris
    Dec 26 '11 at 9:29
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    @Kris: The capitalisation of a word used to describe a character in Aesop's stories is common, since the characters have no names. Thus we see "Peddler", "Fuller", "Lion" or "Mouse".
    – Irene
    Dec 26 '11 at 10:20

Sense #5 of draw in Wiktionary is applicable: "To attract." An example given is: "I was drawn to her." Etymonline says this usage of the verb draw dates from the 1580s. For a different phrase with the same meaning, see birds of a feather flock together.


The meaning of draw in this context is specified here (definition 3). So, the phrase means this:

Things will attract similar things.

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