We've got a saying in Spain:

ir por lana, volver trasquilado

I've found that in English already exists a similar proverb:

Many go out for wool and come home shorn

whose meaning is also similar

many who seek to better themselves or make themselves rich, end by losing what they already have.

But I'm not certain that the two of them share the following nuance. In Spanish it's applied also to

Alude a quien fue a ofender y volvió ofendido

Let me adapt and translate

The one who try to offend you, ends offending himself.

Offend, meaning in this case, that someone tries to demonstrate that you are wrong or that you are stupid but at the end he stands corrected or definitively showing that he is the stupid one.

Another saying in Spanish that reflects this meaning is

Le salió el tiro por la culata / His gun backfired

Is correct the use of Many go out for wool and come home shorn in this case? Are there any other idioms for this case?

  • 1
    His gun backfired is the expression for that! ;)
    – Maulik V
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 9:00
  • 1
    Related: idioms.thefreedictionary.com/the+biter+bit; more generally: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/what_goes_around_comes_around.
    – user3395
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 10:09
  • 1
    The famous line from Shakespeare: "hoist with his own petard" applies to your "offend" scenario.
    – TimR
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 10:41
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    @RubioRic That's why they're proverbs and not really idioms, and that's why I'm posting them in a comment.
    – user3395
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 10:58
  • 1
    Here's what phrases.org.uk/meanings/bible-phrases-sayings.html says about the Bible and its influence on English: "The King James Version of the Bible has been enormously influential in the development of the English language. It ranks with the complete works of Shakespeare and the Oxford English Dictionary as one of the cornerstones of the recorded language. After Shakespeare, the King James, or Authorized, Version of the Bible is the most common source of phrases in English." You don't have to be religious to use the idioms listed there either.
    – user3395
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 11:02

2 Answers 2


One idiom in the same vain as your two expressions that I can think of at the moment would be the joke is on somebody:

If you say that the joke is on a particular person, you mean that that person has tried to make someone else look silly but has made himself or herself look silly instead.

Moreover, it's also a common expression. What I mean by that is that it's not only found in dictionaries. You will actually hear somebody use it at some point if you listen to native English speakers speak long enough.

  • 2
    It might be worth adding that this phrase is almost always used with pronouns. I've heard plenty of people say, "The joke's on him!" but I don't know if I've ever heard anyone say, "The joke's on George!"
    – J.R.
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 10:22

Let me compile some of the suggestions that appear in the comments above.

backfire (on someone)

[to cause harm to someone or something] to harm the person who runs the scheme

@MalikV suggested that his gun backfired can be used but I have found no evidence of its usage.

the biter bit suggested by @userr2684291

the person who wanted to do harm, cheat somebody, etc., has harm done to them, is cheated

hoist with his own petard suggested by @Tᴚoɯɐuo and taken from Hamlet by Shakespeare

to cause the bomb maker to be blown up with his own bomb

This last one is my favourite so far. I'm marking this post as answer but the credit should go to @Tᴚoɯɐuo

  • 1
    If you like hoist with his own petard, you may like this more - dig your own grave! So, it goes like - by insulting others, he was digging his own grave.
    – Maulik V
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 16:49
  • @MaulikV I already knew that one. A great one, but it somehow lacks the sense of trying to harm others. From Oxford Dictionary: "to do something that causes you harm"
    – RubioRic
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 16:53

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