"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Great minds think alike

This is a humorous expression that is used when you found out someone else was thinking about the same thing as you were. If you say, "Great minds think alike," you say, jokingly, that you and someone else must be very intelligent or great because both of you thought of the same thing or agree on something.

The earliest instance of the proverb in its present form seems be from 1898:-
"Curious how great minds think alike. My pupil wrote me the same explanation about his non-appearance."
[1898 C. G. Robertson Voces Academicae]

The eraliest version of it at all seems to be from 1618 when D. Belchier wrote
"Though he made that verse, Those words were made before. Good wits doe jumpe."
[1618 D. Belchier Hans Beer-Pot ] ( The word jump used in the sense of ‘agree completely’ or ‘coincide’ is now archaic.)


  1. Interesting. I grew up hearing this adage. Later, my wife informed me of a part II to the quote: "...and fools seldom differ." Perhaps the second part is a retort, or sour grapes from a third party. Or perhaps a hedging of the bets in case the idea turns out poorly?

  2. The exact quote of which I was seeking derivational info was similar: "Great minds run in the same channel, all" Teased with the definition from American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, I tried to find out more about the source of the phrase in usage in the 1500's. Even went to Francis Grosse’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1811, that you quoted in your definition of "before you say Jack Robinson" on Oct. 18, 2009.

    Any other avenues of research to suggest?
    Idioms & Phrases
    "great minds run in the same channel, all" -
    Intelligent persons think alike or come up with similar ideas. For example, I see you brought your tennis racketthank goodness for great minds. This term is often uttered (sometimes jokingly) when two persons seem to find the same answer simultaneously, and is frequently shortened. [Late 1500s]

    The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
    Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.

  3. Sorry Dottie, I've never heard the phrase in the format you quote and haven't been able to trace its origins. Be fascinated to know if you ever do trace it.