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Blood from a Stone

Blood from a Stone Definition

Like Getting Blood from a Stone.

Something that is very difficult or impossible to do. Trying to gain something from a person or object that is difficult to gain.

A popular English alternative to this phrase is “can’t squeeze blood from a turnip”

Blood from a Stone Example

Rocky Balboa with a bloody brow. More likely than getting blood from a stone.
You may not get blood from a stone but you can make Rocky bleed. nyuck nyuck nyuck!
  • “Getting money from Sam is like trying to get blood from a stone.”
  • “You can’t get blood from a stone. He can’t tell you what he doesn’t know.”


Vicesimus Knox

They must have had abilities inherent in them, or they could not have been excited, according to that common observation, that it is impossible to get blood out of a stone;

Winter Evenings, Or, Lucubrations on Life and Letters, Volume 1 , Vicesimus Knox, 1788[1]

Vicesimus Knox was an English Anglican priest and headmaster of the Tonbridge school. He took over the school in 1778 from his father of the same name. Knox wrote essays about philanthropy and the importance of an end to war.


The singer Feist on stage singing with black backdrop
Feist at Keyspan Park

“I need therapy after writing. It’s like leaking blood from a stone. It’s brutally difficult but worth it.”


Feist is a Canadian indie pop singer-songwriter and guitarist. She performs solo and with the group Broken Social Scene.

She was featured on the first episode of the 39th season of Sesame Street. As well as A Colbert Christmas with Stephen Colbert!

Blood from a Stone Origin

Literary Origin

“To go about to fetch bloud out of stones, viz. to attempt what is impossible.[4]

The Second Alphabet by Giovanni Torriano

The Second Alphabet by Giovanni Torriano was written in 1662. This book has the earliest known use of our idiom in text, although in old English.

Giovanni was a professor of Italian language. He held lessons at Mitre Court in London. He was born 1609 in Valtellina, Italy and died around 1666 in England[5].

Spiritual Origin

The earliest example of a version of the phrase in English is in Minor Poems by J. Lydgate in 1435.

John Lydgate

A black & white rendering of John Lydgate an English monk.
John Lydgate

“Harde to likke hony out of a marbil stoon, For there is nouthir licour nor moisture.”

Minor Poems by J. Lydgate

Minor Poems is a collection of poems by John Lydgate a monk and Poet born in Lidgate village near Haverill, England.

Lydgate is one of the earliest poets to write in continuation with the works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Chaucer is known for writing The Canterbury Tales. He is widely considered the greatest English poet of the middle ages[6].

John’s most notable work is Troy Book. This collection of five books is a poem of Trojan history. It was thought to be a challenge to Chaucer’s Trojan romance Troilus and Criseyde.

Altogether his shorter poems received the most praise. Poems like The Complaint of the Black Knight, The Temple of Glas and The Floure of Curtesy. As he grew older Lydgate’s poems grew longer and were considered not as relevant.

Marryat Go Round

“I have often heard it said, there’s no getting blood out of a turnip ; but it seems there is more chance with a cabbage. I tell you what, Japhet, you may try your hand upon me as much as you please, for two-pence a go.”

Japhet in Search of a Father, Frederick Marryat, 1836

Blood from a turnip is an English alternative form of this idiom. It’s first seen in the novel Japhet in Search of a father by Frederick Marryat. Marryat was a British Royal Navy officer and an acquaintance of Charles Dickens the famous writer of Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities.

Marryat served with distinction in the Napoleonic Wars. After the war he went on scientific studies and invented a lifeboat for ships. Having saved more than one man from drowning in his service. He even invented a system of maritime flag signaling known as the Marryat code that was widely used.