(An) eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth


      • revenge or retaliation
        To suggest that the appropriate response to wrongdoing is to inflict the same harm or injury that was caused, emphasizing the concept of retribution and seeking justice.

      • equality or fairness
        To indicate that punishment should be proportionate to the crime, highlighting the idea of balance and not going beyond what is necessary for justice to be served.

    Examples of (An) eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth

    • The victim's family demanded justice, stating that (an) eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth should be the law's response after their loved one was brutally attacked.

      This idiom means that the punishment for a crime should be equal to the harm caused by the crime. The victim's family believes that the offender should suffer the same extent of injury as the one they inflicted on their loved one. It highlights the importance of justice and retaliation in a society.

    • The defendant's lawyer argued that (an) eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth would lead to chaos and a never-ending cycle of violence.

      This idiom can also be interpreted as an invitation to vengeance, perpetuating violence and hate. The defense attorney's statement stresses the possible consequences if the principle of 'an eye for an eye' were applied indiscriminately, making it clear that there are limits to the application of justice. It underlines the need for diplomacy and mercy in the face of injustice.

    • In his book, 'The Mighty', Jim Vanderzee writes about the indigenous tribes in the Sahara, mentioning how, traditionally, their disputes have been resolved through (an) eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

      This idiom helps us understand the rich and varied cultural traditions of different societies. Vanderzee's narrative reveals that revenge could be a fundamental part of traditional justice systems. It indicates the presence of cultural differences, where one's sense of fairness and retribution could differ from another's cultural background.

    • The academic, Jane Bolg, in her essay, 'The Moral Imperative to Forgiveness', advocates for forgiveness and compassion, surmising that (an) eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth would only lead to escalating violence.

      Bolg's essay highlights the importance of forgiveness over revenge which is the opposite meaning of the idiom 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth'. Her statement highlights the transformative power of forgiveness as a path to healing and a significant departure from a cycle of revenge. It encourages one to address injustice through compassion and forgiveness instead of retaliation. This idiom can be interpreted as an admonition, emphasizing that blind retaliation generates more negative consequences than could be expected.

    • John's response to the insult was an "eye for an eye" tactic. He retaliated with a sarcastic and cutting remark, matching the severity of the initial insult.

      The idiom "an eye for an eye" means that retaliation should be similar in severity to the offense committed. In this example, John's response was proportionate to the initial insult.

    • After being betrayed by her friend, Sarah decided that she would no longer be a "doormat" and instead took a "tooth for a tooth" approach. She stopped trying to please her friend and started standing up for herself, refusing to let her friend walk all over her again.

      The idiom "a tooth for a tooth" means that someone should respond to an offense in a similar manner. In this example, Sarah understood that it was time to defend herself and defend her worth, which she did by being firm and assertive.

    • The small town had a long-standing feud between two families, with each side determined to get "an eye for an eye" in return for wrongs committed. This cycle of violence only seemed to escalate the situation and left both families in a constant state of conflict.

      This example shows how the idiom can be misused, as the families' desire for revenge only served to further the conflict. Instead of promoting peace, the "eye for an eye" approach led to a never-ending cycle of violence.

    • After being accused of cheating, the student responded with a "tooth for a tooth" strategy by presenting evidence of his or her innocence. This approach showed that the student was unwilling to be treated unfairly and was willing to defend himself or herself by presenting the truth.

      This example shows how the idiom can be applied in a positive way, as the student refused to let an unjust accusation stand without evidence to the contrary. By presenting evidence, the student was able to defend himself or herself and prevent an unfair outcome.


    This idiom is often used to express the idea that actions have consequences and that justice should be served in a fair and equal manner. It can also be used to discourage individuals from seeking revenge and to promote the concept of forgiveness and moving on from a wrongdoing.

    Origin of "(An) eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth"

    The origins of this idiom can be traced back to the Code of Hammurabi, one of the oldest surviving legal codes in history. This code was established by the Babylonian king Hammurabi in the 18th century BC and was based on the principle of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" as a form of punishment for crimes.

    The concept of retribution and proportionate punishment was also mentioned in the Bible, specifically in the Old Testament in the book of Exodus. This idea was later adopted by the ancient Greeks and Romans, and eventually became a widely used idiom in many languages and cultures.

    Today, the phrase "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" is often used figuratively to refer to seeking justice or retribution in a situation where someone has been wronged. It also serves as a reminder to think carefully before seeking revenge, as it may result in a never-ending cycle of violence and harm.