The term ‘kill two birds with one stone‘ is a phrase that means to achieve two different goals in a single action.
Example: The front door to my house is broken. It’s a struggle just to get it opened and closed. Also, it’s really old and dirty, so add those to the list of problems. The solution simple: I’m gonna kill two birds with one stone by having the door replaced with a brand new one. That way, I’ll have a working door again 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. There are, however, two theories on how it may have originated.
This phrase may have derived in some way from hunting. How so? Well, the phrase involves birds being killed, which is what happens during hunting. Instead of using a gun or knife, the hunter would have to use a stone to get the job done. Is that doable?
Sure. Keep in mind that they wouldn’t be killing two birds with one stone in a single throw. Rather, the hunter would have to sneak up on some unsuspecting birds, throw the stone at one, then pick up the same stone and find another opportunity for a kill.
A more plausible explanation is that this saying 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, 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.”
Since the phrase dates back to 1656, we know that it’s at least 360 years old.
- There’s food and clothes available at the supermarket, so we’ll 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 healthier foods and drink more water, then I’ll be killing two birds with one stone.
- I’m not getting enough sleep at night because of my aching back. I may be able to fix both of these issues in one fell swoop by buying a better mattress.
- This cleaning spray is great! It kills germs and leaves behind a lovely fragrance all in one go.