What does “kill two birds with one stone” mean?

Discover the meaning of the popular idiom 'Kill two birds with one stone' and learn how to accomplish multiple tasks with a single effort. Find examples and cultural variations.

Understanding the Idiom “Kill Two Birds with One Stone”

“Kill two birds with one stone” is a popular idiom used to describe the act of accomplishing two different things at the same time.

It means to achieve two ends with a single effort or manage to achieve two things at the same time.

Definition and Meaning

The phrase “kill two birds with one stone” is a metaphorical expression that means to achieve two aims at once, solve two problems with one action, or satisfy two arguments with one answer.

It is often used to describe an efficient way of accomplishing multiple tasks in one go.

For example:

  • By biking to work, John was able to get more exercise and cut down on the cost of his daily commute. He killed two birds with one stone.
  • Sarah went to the grocery store to buy some food and visited her uncle too. She was able to accomplish two different things at the same time.
  • Instead of going to the supermarket and then visiting her friend, Jane decided to stop by her friend’s house on her way to the supermarket. She killed two flies with one flap.

Origin and History

The origin of the phrase “kill two birds with one stone” is not entirely clear.

Some sources suggest that it comes from The Proverbs of John Heywood, a collection of proverbs published in 1546.

Others believe that it may have originated from a Greek mythological legend about Daedalus and Icarus.

Thomas Hobbes, a philosopher from the 17th century, used the phrase in his work “Questions Concerning Liberty, Necessity, and Chance.” Since then, the phrase has become a popular idiom used in everyday language.

Modern Usage and Examples

Today, the phrase “kill two birds with one stone” is commonly used in a variety of contexts.

For example, it can be used to describe bike-to-work schemes, where people are encouraged to bike to work instead of driving.

This not only helps them get more exercise but also reduces traffic congestion and air pollution.

Here are some more examples:

  • By taking an online course, you can learn a new skill and save time on commuting to a physical classroom. You can kill two birds with one stone.
  • Instead of going to the gym and then running errands, you can run errands on foot or by bike. This way, you can get some exercise and accomplish your tasks at the same time.
  • By using reusable bags when you go grocery shopping, you can reduce waste and save money on buying plastic bags. You can kill two birds with one stone.

Cultural Variations

The phrase “kill two birds with one stone” is a common idiom in English, but other languages have similar expressions with different imagery.

For example, in French, the equivalent phrase is “faire d’une pierre deux coups,” which means “to kill two flies with one flap.” In Spanish, the phrase is “matar dos pájaros de un tiro,” which means “to kill two birds with one shot.”

Can you give me an example of a similar idiom to “kill two birds with one stone”?

When one is meaning of at death’s door, their vitality hangs by a thread, evoking idioms akin to “kill two birds with one stone,” such as “to hit two targets with one arrow,” where a single action achieves dual purposes, capturing efficiency in the face of life’s fragility.

Synonyms

  • Two for the price of one
  • In one fell swoop
  • Stop two gaps with one bush