Menu Close

One Bad Apple Spoils the Bunch

four apples in front of window, one is spoiled. One bad apple spoils the bunch

One Bad Apple Spoils the Bunch Definition

One bad apple spoils the bunch.

  • One person’s negative mood or actions, can affect the whole group’s mood.
  • One person’s actions can ruin a lot for others.

One Bad Apple Spoils the Bunch Examples

  • The four of us had fun playing catch until Ben threw it over the fence on purpose. Now we don’t have anything. I guess one bad apple really does spoil the batch.
  • One bad apple spoils the bunch. Kristen decided it was more important to get a manicure than do her part of the group project. Now we all failed.


It wouldn’t be fair to cast aspersions on an entire cultural movement based on the actions of a few. To quote my grandfather, ‘One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch.’

Most Def

More generally, to prevent a good apple from getting spoiled by a bunch of bad ones, remember to show your appreciation for it.

Noah J. Goldstein

One Bad Apple Spoils the Bunch Origin

This idiom is one that is actually based in science! Not only is mold commonly known to travel from one apple to others nearby. Ripening apples also release Ethylene, a gas that speeds up the ripening process for itself, and it’s neighbors, causing a chain reaction of ripening (and then soon after, spoiling).

Spiritual Origin

Wel bet is roten appul out of hoord

“Well better is a rotten apple out of the store

Than that it rotie al the remenaunt.”

Than that it rot al the remnant.

The Cook’s Tale, Geoffrey Chaucer 1400

The earliest example of an idiom that likely gave birth to the one we use today comes from The Cook’s Tale. The story is part of The Canterbury Tales, a widely known collection of stories and poems written by the historic English poet Geoffrey Chaucer. The story centers around a cook’s apprentice named Perkin Reveler a drunkard who likes to party. He is released by his master and moves in with his fellow alcoholic friend. Along with his friend’s wife, who is a shopkeeper that moonlights as a prostitute.

The tale is unfinished at only 58 lines, but scholars debate this may have been an intentional choice by Chaucer.

Literary Origin

The rotten Apple spoils his Companion

Poor Richards Almanack, Benjamin Franklin 1736

The adage becomes something close to how we use it today when it’s published in Benjamin Franklin’s annual pamphlet Poor Richard’s Almanack in 1736.

The inventor, statesman, publisher and founding father of America Benjamin Franklin was quite accomplished in his life. Starting in 1732 he began publishing a yearly almanac under his pen name of Poor Richard. The almanac was incredibly popular in the Thirteen Colonies of early America. It contained all sorts of useful information from weather forecasts and households tips to entertainment like puzzles and proverbs!