Idiom of the Week: Kill two birds with one stone

A pigeon and a seagull flying over water

This week’s idiom is a very common expression not only in English, but also in a lot of different languages around the world: to kill two birds with one stone. While the precise phrasing of the idioms understandably differs between the languages – some prefer killing rabbits or flies – they all share the meaning of achieving two or more things at once.

Considering the large number of languages that use this phrase, we want to limit ourselves to European languages. If you take a look at the map below, you can see there are groups of countries which share the subject that is being… taken care of. What is curious is that there doesn’t always seem to be a linguistic correlation to what expression is used in each language. There seems to be more of a geographical pattern, but there is the obvious exception of Portuguese using “kill two rabbits” instead of two birds as Spanish does. 

Different ways of saying „kill two birds with one stone in Europe. Map created by Jakub Marian

Finding where this idiom in English came from is very difficult (as is the case with other idioms), as it can’t be pinpointed to any one origin and the phrase in its idiomatic form seems to have been in use for hundreds of years. Despite this, we think this particular idiom to be very interesting specifically for how common it is all around the world.