By Hook or By Crook

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By Hook or By Crook : Phrases


By any means possible - fair or foul.


It is sometimes suggested that this derives from a custom in mediaeval England of allowing peasants to take any deadwood from the royal forest that they could reach with a shepherd's crook or a reaper's billhook. That's just one of the many suggested derivations. Another commonly repeated suggestion is that it comes from Hook Head and nearby village of Crook, in Waterford, Ireland. Those stories, nor any of the others that I won't bore you with, have any evidence to support them - apart from some reference to hooks and crooks.

The earliest references date back to the 14th century - the first known being in Old English, from John Wyclif, 1380. None of the early citations make any reference to wood gathering, which we might expect them to if that really were the origin.

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