To kill two birds with one stone means to complete two different goals with one action.
Example: My house’s front door is broken. It’s a struggle just to open and close the thing. On top of that, it’s really dirty. So what am I gonna do? Well, I plan on killing two birds with one stone by having the door replaced with a brand new one. That way, I’ll have a working door and it’ll be clean.
Synonyms/Related: in one fell swoop, two for one, in one go
The Origin Of ‘Kill Two Birds With One Stone’
Unfortunately, the origin of the phrase “kill two birds with one stone” is unclear. However, here are two theories on how it may have originated.
This phrase may have derived in some way from hunting. How so? Well, the phrase involves killing birds, and that sounds like something a hunter would do. Of course, they’d have to get the job done using a blunt object, but it’s still doable, right?
Killing two birds with a single stone would certainly be no easy task. The hunter would first have to find a couple of unsuspecting birds, sneak up on them, and then throw the rock. It would probably be impossible to get two at once with a single toss. Thus, the only practical way for the hunter to accomplish what this phrase says is to focus on one bird at a time.
This saying may have derived from an older, similar expression that goes “to stop two gaps with one bush.” This older expression makes an appearance in The Proverbs of John Heywood, 1546:
“I will learne to stop two gaps with one bush.”
A little more than a century later, the phrase “two birds with one stone” was used in a work by Thomas Hobbes called The Questions Concerning Liberty, Necessity and Chance, 1656:
“T. H. thinks to kill two birds with one stone, and satisfie two Arguments with one answer, whereas in truth he satisfieth neither.”
The last quote shows for a certainty that this expression was in use by 1656, so it’s at least over 360 years old.
- There’s food and clothes available at the supermarket, so we can kill two birds with one stone if we shop there.
- I want to lose weight and have more energy. I think if I change my diet to include more healthier foods, then I’ll be killing two birds with one stone.
- I’m not getting enough sleep at night because my back hurts. I can resolve these problems in one fell swoop by buying a better mattress.
- This cleaning spray kills germs and leaves behind a lovely fragrance all in one go.