fish rots from the head down

fish rots from the head down

Meaning | Synonyms

  • It refers to failing organizations and how the blame of it should be on its 'head' that is its leadership.
  • It does not talk about the biology of the fishes and should not be used as a literal meaning. This is because an actual fish starts to rot from its guts and not head according to piscine biology.

Example Sentences

  1. The company was bound to be closed sooner or later considering the kind of mangers that they had hired. A fish rots from the head down after all.
  2. A leader has to be of a strong will and good character otherwise as it is said, the fish rots from the head down. The whole organization would then have to suffer because of it.
  3. His maid servant doesn’t do anything as asked for. But the fish rots from the head down, look at how unorganized his own life is.


Although not certain, the origination of this proverb may be associated with Sir James Porter's work that was published in 1768 called 'Observations on the religion, law, government, and manners of the Turks'. It is a popularly used for big organizations nowadays instead of for individuals. But using it for individuals would not be wrong.

, ,

F 6 Thoughts

6 Thoughts

This saying and Lies have short legs fits Trump to a tee to many suffer from rectal cranial inversion

- Feed up with Donald aka SFP January 27, 2020

Hee! Of course this fits President Trump perfectly. You’d have to be from a different planet to not know the man is an inveterate liar. Defending his sense of honesty unfortunately brands you as unable to discern fact from fiction. And therein lies the danger to our nation posed by the Trump Base. And yes, they are exceedingly base.

- Dan Wedin January 26, 2020

We use this “proverb” in the Greek culture and I strongly disagree that this “proverb” would in anyway pertain to President Trump, who is constantly attacked by the media and ‘regressives’.

- Joyful July 24, 2019




- Janet March 23, 2019

The Famous Persian (Farsi) beloved poet Rumi originated this. But it is more exciting than the known mere translation.

The word he used for rotting is GNDH in Farsi.
You can pronounce GNDH in 2 ways:

1) GaNDeH (Rots)
2) GoNDeH (Grows / Gets Bigger)

He knew what he was doing as he was a master of literature and intended the double meaning.

So the actual half-verse (part of a major piece) he wrote in Farsi and often used by Iranians for many centuries for bad/good leadership is:

“The Fish Rots/Grows From the head, not from tail”

It is pronounced alternatively to mean bad or good leaders, most often though if not always, it is used to criticise and is pronounced GaNDeH meaning rotting from the head.

- Kassra October 24, 2018

The company was bound to be closed sooner or later considering the kind of !!mangers!! that they had hired. A fish rots from the head down after all. Можливо ви мали на увазі MANAGERS?

- Наталя April 18, 2017

Add your thoughts

Idiom of the Day

in the air

Meaning: something like a mood that everybody can feel

Example: You could feel the tension in the air as everyone waited to hear the announcement. Read on


Like Facebook Page

Latest Thoughts

Keep in Touch

Copyrights © 2021 - The Idioms - All Rights Reserved.
Copy Link