By Hook or By Crook





What is the meaning and origin of the expression By Hook or By Crook?

By Mr. Bill, Milwaukee, USA – 17th June 2007.

Let us see the origin first. In medieval Britain, tenants were allowed to collect firewood from trees located on their landlord's property. To protect the trees and to ensure that they were not chopped down indiscriminately, there was a law which was strictly enforced. People were allowed to cut down only those branches which they could reach. The tenants were not allowed to climb up the trees and chop off any of the branches at the top. To reach the branches that were high up, people started using hooks and crooks. (Necessity is the mother of invention, they say!).

We all know what a hook is, but what is a crook? It is a long stick, the kind with a curved handle which shepherds used to carry in the old days. People used the hooks and crooks to pull down the higher branches and chop them down. They got the branches by hook or by crook. Things have changed a lot since those days, haven't they? Nowadays people chop down trees by hook or by crook.

When you say that you are going to do something by hook or by crook, it means you are going to do it come what may. In other words, you are determined to do it, whether it is legal or not. The expression is considered to be rather old fashioned.

Here are a few examples.

• Whenever you give him a task, he gets it done by hook or by crook.

• I have a deadline to meet. I'll meet it by hook or by crook.

• I want that car. I am going to get it by hook or by crook.

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