by hook or by crook


by hook or by crook


  • by any possible means
  • achieve something by any method available
  • reach your goal by any way necessary, be that good or bad

Example Sentences

  1. The farmer will not sell us the land. By hook or by crook, he is hanging on to it.
  2. I have never met such a stubborn child. By hook or by crook, he will not apologise when he is naughty.
  3. Ken is determined to hang on to his old banger of a car by hook or by crook.
  4. She was going to beat this illness by hook or by crook.
  5. She ultimately decides that she will win him by hook or by crook.
  6. Sarah resolves to find her husband an organ donor by hook or by crook.
  7. During a tough time, staying positive is difficult demand, but it must be done – by hook or by crook.


There is said to have been a medieval custom in England for the wealthy landowners to allow the workers and peasants to gather firewood from their forests. However, they were only allowed to take wood that they could reach will a hook (reaper’s bill hook) or with a shepherd’s crook.

The earliest example of the phrase in its original form comes from John Gower in Confessio Amantis (1390) when he wrote:

“What with hepe and what with croke they make her maister ofte winne.”

(In medieval times, a curved bill-hook was known as a hepe).

In 1583 Philip Stubbes used the phrase in the more modern way in Anatomie of Abuses:

“Either by hooke or crooke, by night or day.”

There is another suggestion to the history of this phrase, but the idiom predates these theories.

Used by Oliver Cromwell in the mid-1600s when talking about villages near Waterford in Ireland. On opposite sides of the Waterford, channels are the villages of Hook Head and Crooke. Cromwell apparently said that you could take Waterford ‘by Hook or by Crooke’ if you landed your army at one or other of these villages.

Share your opinions

What's on your mind?