as different as chalk and cheese


as different as chalk and cheese (simile)
/æz ˈdɪfərənt æz ʧɔk ənd ʧiz/


  • like chalk and cheese
  • as different as night and day


  • used to describe two things that are completely different from each other in every way.
  • refers to two people or items that have no similarities and are distinctly unlike.
  • denotes an extreme contrast between two subjects, highlighting their dissimilarity.
  • a phrase used to emphasize the vast differences between two entities, making any comparison absurd.
  • indicates that two things are so different that they cannot be compared in a meaningful way.

The phrase “as different as chalk and cheese” is a long-standing idiom in the English language, used to describe two things that are completely different from one another.

Example Sentences

  1. Though they are twins, their interests are as different as chalk and cheese.
  2. The tastes of classical music and heavy metal are as different as chalk and cheese.
  3. Comparing an introvert to an extrovert is like comparing chalk and cheese.
  4. The company’s old management style and the new one are as different as chalk and cheese.
  5. Her approach to problem-solving is as different as chalk and cheese compared to his.

Origin and History

The phrase “as different as chalk and cheese” has a multifaceted history rooted in medieval literature, market practices, and the appealing nature of alliteration. Its endurance in the English language attests to its effectiveness in conveying the idea of stark contrast and inherent differences.

Its origins can be traced back to the medieval period, and various theories have been proposed to explain its inception.

Earliest Recorded Usage

One of the earliest known instances of the phrase appears in John Gower’s “Confessio Amantis” from 1393:

“And thus ful ofte chalk for cheese he changeth with ful littel cost”.

This early usage suggests that the phrase was used metaphorically to indicate deceit, with chalk being substituted for cheese in a fraudulent manner, highlighting their obvious differences in quality and nature.

Alliteration and Appeal

The phrase likely gained popularity due to its alliterative appeal, making it catchy and easy to remember. The use of short, snappy words like “chalk” and “cheese” contributed to its longevity in the English language. Alliteration is a common feature in many idioms, making them more memorable and easier to use in everyday conversation.

Medieval Marketplaces and Deception

A prevalent theory is that the phrase originated from medieval marketplaces, where dishonest vendors might mix chalk into cheese to increase its weight and deceive buyers. This practice would have made the stark difference between the two substances clear once discovered, reinforcing the metaphor of complete dissimilarity.

Regional Claims

Various regions in the UK have claimed the origin of the phrase, often for promotional reasons. However, these claims are largely unfounded and more related to local folklore than historical evidence. The phrase has no definitive geographical origin within the UK, but it has been widely used across English-speaking countries.

Fixed Expression

By the sixteenth century, the phrase had become a fixed expression. Notably, Hugh Latimer used it in a sermon around 1555, saying, “As though I could not discern cheese from chalk,” underscoring the established use of the idiom to denote obvious differences.

Urban Legends

Some urban legends suggest that vendors in the 13th century mixed chalk with cheese to maximize profits. While colorful, these stories lack substantial evidence but add to the idiom’s rich tapestry of potential origins.


  1. like night and day
  2. poles apart
  3. worlds apart
  4. polar opposites
  5. apples and oranges
  6. like oil and water

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