I have checked lots of dictionaries, but each of them has a slightly different meaning. Can I use this idiom or phrase as to mean that the parent and son have similar:

   (1) look
   (2) behavior
   (3) job
   (4) voice
   (5) personality
   (6) qualities

Here are my researches:

(A) Wiktionary says behavior and in physical characteristics

(B) Urbandictionary says actions and behaviors

(C) Idiomeanings.com says love shopping (hobby?)

I personally think that (1) look is the best fit but none of these websites have the definition of it. Plus, I came across a site that father and son are doctors. Thanks.

  • 1
    To identify similar behavior, personality, or character is how the phrase is most often used of parent and offspring.
    – TimR
    Nov 20, 2015 at 12:56
  • @TRomano In our culture, it is used more negatively, (as you say doesn't fall far), I would like to know how it is used in your culture.
    – Ahmad
    Nov 20, 2015 at 14:48
  • @Ahmad: It is not restricted to negative use. That said, my sense is that negative uses tend to outnumber positive ones by a good margin. A positive example: father could have been a great athlete in his youth, and junior is showing signs of agility at a very young age.
    – TimR
    Nov 20, 2015 at 15:15

2 Answers 2


All of those are correct.

When someone says "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree", it's meant that some characteristic appears to be inherited. It can apply to physical characteristics or non-physical ones.

There is no strong "default" characteristic that this phrase means, so if you say this about someone with no context and the characteristic is not obvious, the listener will probably ask "What do you mean?" or possibly assume something you may not mean.


the apple doesn't fall far from the tree

It's interesting, we have the exact idiom in Persian. However, we say:

The fruit doesn't fall far from the tree

I think, to understand this idiom you should know in which situations it is used. It says "usually a child can not be very different from his/her parents" or "you shouldn't expect that a child behaves very differently from his parents.". It can be used positively or negatively. However, in my opinion, it is a restricting statement and more a negative one. I say this because if they meant a positive sentence, they could say, for example, The apple falls close to the tree not doesn't fall far.

Then, it can be used in situations where you know the parents of someone as good or bad people and you anticipate that he/she behaves similar to them. It can also be said by the parents to mean that their children behave similar to them.

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