What does it mean "in arms"? And is there a double meaning here, since they are goalkeepers?

They are brothers in arms, members of the goalkeeping fraternity, like their father before them. Their mum, too. Alisson returns for Liverpool on Sunday after suffering a calf injury on the opening day of the season. His older sibling, Muriel, who plays for Fluminense back in Brazil, will be tuning in, nervously, recalling the days when, as boys, they pushed each other to sporting success.

The Telegraph: 'I bullied Alisson but that was only because we were so close': Liverpool goalkeeper's brother lifts the lid on sibling rivalry growing up in Brazil

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    Did you not google this first? It is not an unusual phrase.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 11:22

4 Answers 4


Your focus is slightly misdirected. I'm guessing you didn't consider "brothers in arms" because the article is about an actual brother. However, the word is actually part of an idiom.

Here's an entry for arms:

1 Usually arms. weapons, especially firearms.

Now, in arms:

in arms
in British
or under arms
armed and prepared for war
(Collins Dictionary)

Now, that's the literal meaning. In everyday, figurative language, it means ready to fight.

Yes, they are actually brothers. However, the entire phrase here is brothers in arms:

in arms idiom
Definition of in arms

—often used in the brother/sister/comrade in arms to indicate one has helped to fight an enemy especially in a war
// He and I were brothers in arms.

Again, it is not literal in the sense that they go to war. It is figurative and used to say the players are a close, tight-knit group, like a group of men in the military who battle together. They happen to be brothers, and it has a double meaning in that sense, but the idiom can be used with any group, even if the members aren’t actual brothers.

As for a double meaning in in arms, yes, you could argue that there is one since the goalkeepers use their arms to play the game and capture the ball. You could also argue that there is also a double meaning in the usage of fraternity. It's being used to continue the metaphor of a close group of men being brothers, but fraternity literally means brotherhood:

A fraternity (from Latin frater: "brother"; whence, "brotherhood") or fraternal organization is an organization, society, club or fraternal order traditionally of men associated together for various religious or secular aims. Fraternity in the Western concept developed in the Christian context, notably with the religious orders in the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. The concept was eventually further extended with medieval confraternities and guilds. In the early modern era, these were followed by fraternal orders such as freemasons and odd fellows, along with gentlemen's clubs, student fraternities, and fraternal service organizations. Members are occasionally referred to as a brother or – usually in religious context – Frater or Friar.

I don't think the writer is referring to an actual club of goalkeepers. It's just being used to convey the close relationship.


"Brothers in arms" is an idiom and a fixed expression. We don't tend to use "in arms" except in this expression.

"Brothers in arms" means men who are as close as brothers because they have fought alongside each other in a war.

Jack and Arthur were infantrymen in the second world war. They both fought on the Beaches on D-day. After the war they met most evenings at the British Legion club. They were best men for each others weddings. When Jack died, Arthur gave the eulogy. They were truly brothers-in-arms.

The expression is best known now from the Dire Straits song and album. Brothers in Arms.

In the example given, it is likely a metaphorical use. They aren't actually soldiers, but they "battled" together on the football pitch.

  • 5
    There is also "up in arms". Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 11:03
  • To add a quick note about the song, the final line stretches "brothers in arms" to include the people they're fighting against, because the song is about the futility of war.
    – Graham
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 11:24
  • @VisualMelon Or, the ever (in)famous "right to bear arms". Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 19:28
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    @VisualMelon also comrades in arms, sisters in arms, and Babes in Arms.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 21:39

Brothers in arms is an idiom which means soldiers who are fighting on the same side. I think it is used figuratively. They play football like brothers (actually they are brothers too), as fighters and help each other and may be injured sometimes. Their father was also a player like them

Here is a link which shows the meaning:



A similar phrase is 'babe in arms':

babe in arms
1. An infant. (Based on the fact that an infant is typically carried in an adult's arms).
Let me see that precious babe in arms!
2. A person who is gullible, naïve, or lacks experience in a specific situation.

Source: The Free Dictionary

  • 1
    This doesn't answer the question though, it's about a completely different expression.
    – pipe
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 16:13
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    The word "arms" in "brothers in arms" means weapons, not the parts of the body that grow out of the shoulders.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 17:54
  • 1
    These phrases share the words "in arms" but they are actually totally different. A good answer might include explaining that.
    – mattdm
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 14:41

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