blind leading the blind

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The phrase can be traced back to The Upanishads, written between 800 BCE and 200 BCE.

Abiding in the midst of ignorance, thinking themselves wise and learned, fools go aimlessly hither and thither, like blind led by the blind. - Katha Upanishad

A similar expression exists in the Buddhist Pali Canon, composed in North India, and preserved orally until it was committed to writing during the Fourth Buddhist Council in Sri Lanka in 29 BCE.

The expression appears in Horace: Caecus caeco dux ("the blind leader of the blind"). Horace was a leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus (27 BCE – 14 CE)

The saying appears in the King James Version of the Bible (1611), Gospel of Matthew, 15:14:

Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.


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blind leading the blind

  1. (idiomatic) A situation in which an unqualified person is attempting to guide, advise, or train others.
    Grandma teaching you to drive is like the blind leading the blind.
    • 1843, James Fenimore Cooper, Wyandotte, ch. 5:
      "The Lord preserve us from evil times. . . . Without his grace, we are the blind leading the blind."
    • 1896, Amelia E. Barr, chapter 2, in A Knight of the Nets:
      "I have been giving them some good advice."
      "Good advice!" laughed Janet. "Between you and Jamie Logan, it is the blind leading the blind, and nothing better."
    • 1995 March 1, John F. Dickerson, "Aging: Never Too Old," Time (retrieved Aug 2014):
      Instructor George Breathitt asked an audience of 300 computer enthusiasts in Louisville, Kentucky, how many seniors in the group would like to teach other seniors about computers. A younger member of the audience quipped disdainfully, "Wouldn't that be the blind leading the blind?"