spare the rod and spoil the child

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Medieval schoolboy being birched


Commonly claimed to have come from:

Due to the associated "spoil" concept which is not in the Bible, it more likely came from:

  • A 17th century poem by Samuel Butler called “Hudibras”. In the poem, a love affair is likened to a child, and spanking is mockingly commended as a way to make the love grow stronger. The actual verse reads [1]:
    "What medicine else can cure the fits
    Of lovers when they lose their wits?
    Love is a boy by poets styled
    Then spare the rod and spoil the child."


IPA(key): /ˈspɛə(ɹ) ðə ɹɒd ənd spɔɪl ðə t͡ʃaɪ.ld/


spare the rod and spoil the child

  1. If one does not discipline a child, he or she will never learn obedience and good manners.