tar with the same brush


tar with the same brush


  • to think that somebody has the same bad qualities as others in a similar surrounding
  • to characterize someone with the same undesirable attribute as another
  • believe to be having the same faults


  1. Though the impression is that all government officials are corrupt, some of them are quite honest; its not fair to tar them with the same brush.
  2. The players of that team are a bunch of jokers, but the captain shouldn’t be tarred with the same brush. He is a great player.
  3. He may be from the same school, but don’t tar him with the same brush.
  4. While its true that most people from that region are violent, let’s not tar all of them with the same brush.
  5. Since Jack had worked closely with Bob, he was tarred with the same brush when reports of Bob cheating the company came out.

This phrase is thought to have multiple origins, but none of them are confirmed. It may refer to the practice of marking sheep with tar, both to distinguish from another herd and also to protect it from ticks. Another reference may be to the cruel practice of tarring and feathering of criminals, wherein hot tar was poured over the criminal’s shaven head and feathers attached to the tar.

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What about "tarring others with your own brush"? Meaning to project your own faults and values onto others. Like how an honest merchant only worries about being deceived after it happens, but a dishonest merchant fears it every minute...because he tars others with his own brush. Also I find it a more credible origin for this phrase to lie with sailors and sheep daubers than criminals.... The unpleasant task of applying new pitch to maintain the waterproofing of the ship/boats could be considered a good punishment for miscreants, who would end up with tar sticking to them in the process... especially when the young mischief-makers start getting it deliberately on each other, ending up literally tarred with the same brush. Of course if you see one known miscreant with another tar-splattered youth it is easy to assume they are both trouble-makers!

- JaDe February 22, 2022

I think the sheep idea won't work because its about tarring sheep and maybe another herd but the phrase is about shame and you won't shame a sheep. Now ill just wipe the spit up. The tar and feather idea works if you do the same to another person or group, then they are getting tarred with the same brush.

- Chriss May 13, 2021

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