You Cannot Get Blood From A Turnip: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
September 29, 2023

When someone uses the phrase "you cannot get blood from a turnip," they emphasize the impossibility of obtaining something from a person or situation where it is unavailable. It often conveys a scenario where someone is trying to get money or resources from a source that doesn't have any to give.

In short:

“You cannot get blood from a turnip” is an idiom expressing the futility of trying to extract something from a source where it is not available.

What Does "You Cannot Get Blood from a Turnip" Mean?

The idiom "you cannot get blood from a turnip" strongly emphasizes the impossibility of obtaining something from an inherently lacking source. It vividly portrays a situation where efforts are destined to be unfruitful, conveying a clear message of the unrealistic expectations and futile endeavors one might encounter.

Let's break down its core meanings and usage:

  • "You cannot get blood from a turnip" refers to the impossibility of extracting something from a source where it is not available.
  • It advises someone against wasting time and energy on an unfruitful endeavor.
  • It highlights the unfeasibility of obtaining funds or resources from someone who doesn't have them.

The expression is often used in financial contexts but can also apply to other situations where efforts are likely fruitless.

Where Does "You Cannot Get Blood from a Turnip" Come From?

The origin of this idiom is somewhat unclear, but it is believed to be derived from a much older saying which dates back to the 17th century. The premise behind it is pretty straightforward – emphasizing the impossibility of extracting something that does not exist. Let's delve deeper into its history.

Historical Context

It was seen in literature as early as 1669, in a compilation of proverbs by James Kelly, where he wrote:

"Ye'll get blood out of a stone sooner than money out of him."

This conveys the same sentiment as the modern version of the idiom. Through time, the saying evolved, replacing the word "stone" with "turnip," possibly to emphasize the futility further, considering that turnips are filled with water, not blood.

10 Examples of "You Cannot Get Blood from a Turnip" in Sentences

Understanding an idiom becomes easier when you see it used in sentences. Here are ten examples that illustrate the usage of the phrase in various contexts:

  • Trying to pull off a fundraising campaign with those stingy sponsors is like banging your head against a wall. Remember, you cannot get blood from a turnip.
  • I've been there and tried that, but it's a dead end, for you cannot get blood from a turnip.
  • I can't pay you back right now; you can't get blood from a turnip.
  • She tried to gather information from the secretive organization, but it felt like trying to get blood from a turnip.
  • No matter how hard you try, attempting to get him to donate will fall on deaf ears; you cannot get blood from a turnip.
  • Expecting the government to fund the project feels like getting blood from a turnip.
  • Quite frankly, trying to get that information out of her is futile; you cannot get blood from a turnip.
  • Securing a loan from that bank is like trying to get blood from a turnip.
  • She knew convincing him would be like trying to get blood from a turnip.
  • Extracting a confession from the suspect was like getting blood from a turnip.

Examples of "You Cannot Get Blood from a Turnip" in Pop Culture

While the idiom is primarily seen in everyday language and literature, it occasionally appears in pop culture. Here are some instances:

  • In the movie "The Paperboy" (2012), the idiom is used to signify the difficulty in getting the truth out of a character.
  • Various television series episodes have had characters use the phrase to underline the hopelessness of a situation.

The idiom portrays vivid imagery of futility, bringing a rich expression in dialogues across pop-culture platforms.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "You Cannot Get Blood from a Turnip"

Here are some synonyms or related expressions that carry a similar meaning to the idiom:

  • Getting blood out of a stone
  • Banging your head against a wall
  • Flogging a dead horse

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "You Cannot Get Blood from a Turnip":

  • What does the idiom "you cannot get blood from a turnip" mean?

It means trying to obtain something from a person or source that is not capable of providing it, signifying a futile endeavor.

  • What is the origin of the idiom?

The exact origin is unclear but it is believed to have evolved from a similar phrase that existed in the 17th century. It has been used in different variations emphasizing the futility of certain efforts.

  • Can the idiom be used in different contexts?

Yes, it can be used in various contexts, not limited to financial situations, to denote the impracticality of expecting results from a futile source.

  • What kind of imagery does the idiom present?

The idiom paints a vivid picture of futility, bringing to mind the impossible task of extracting blood from a turnip, which doesn’t have any.

  • Why was "stone" replaced with "turnip" in the evolved version of the idiom?

While not confirmed, it is assumed that “turnip” might have been used to further emphasize the futility as turnips are filled with water, not blood.

  • Is the idiom used in pop culture?

Yes, it has made appearances in movies and television series, bringing depth to dialogues by portraying the futility in certain situations.

  • Are there other idioms that can be used as a substitute for this one?

Yes, phrases like “getting blood out of a stone” or “flogging a dead horse” carry a similar meaning, emphasizing the impossibility and futility of a task.

  • Can the idiom be seen as advice?

Yes, it often serves as advice, warning individuals to avoid wasting time and energy on unfruitful endeavors.

  • How has the idiom been used historically?

Historically, it has been used to represent financial situations where it was futile to expect money or resources from someone who doesn’t have it.

  • Can the idiom be used humorously?

Yes, sometimes it is used in a lighter vein to humorously depict the futility of a situation, adding a touch of exaggeration to the scenario.

Final Thoughts About "You Cannot Get Blood from a Turnip"

The phrase "you cannot get blood from a turnip" is often used to convey the impossibility of obtaining something from a person or a situation where it is not available or nonexistent. Essentially, it describes a futile effort to get resources, answers, or results from a source that lacks what is being sought.

Here's a quick wrap-up:

  • The phrase expresses the impossibility of getting something from where it isn't available.
  • It can be used in various contexts, portraying the futile efforts in financial, personal, or bureaucratic scenarios.
  • The phrase dates back to the 17th century, with variations appearing in literature over centuries.
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