What does the idiom "different as chalk and cheese" mean?

Are you using the idiom different as chalk and cheese but not sure about its meaning? Using idioms, which are important elements of spoken and written language, in the right place strengthens your language skills. Examine the meaning of the different as chalk and cheese idiom and the situations in which it is used.

Meaning of "different as chalk and cheese"


The idiom ‘different as chalk and cheese’ is used to describe two things or people that are extremely different. It suggests that the difference between the two things or people is so wide that it can’t be bridged, just like the difference between chalk and cheese, two entirely different substances. The idiom can be used to describe a wide range of things, from people’s personalities and habits to two different cultures or countries. It implies that the two things or people have nothing in common.


The phrase ‘different as chalk and cheese’ first appeared in the 15th century, but its exact origin is unknown. It is thought that the expression was first used to describe two different kinds of cheese, since chalk and cheese have long been a staple in European diets since the Middle Ages. The phrase was then applied to other things to illustrate the huge differences between them.


The phrase ‘different as chalk and cheese’ can be used to describe two people, ideas, places, cultures, or anything else that is significantly different. It is often used to make a comparison between two things that may initially appear to be similar but are actually quite different. For example, two people may seem to have similar tastes in music but upon closer inspection, their music tastes may be drastically different.

The phrase can also be used in a more literal sense, to describe two substances that are entirely different. For example, when talking about the different textures of two types of fabric, one could compare them to chalk and cheese.

Example Sentences

  • My two sons are as different as chalk and cheese - one is a bookworm while the other loves sports.
  • Everyone in our family has a unique personality - it’s like we’re all different as chalk and cheese.
  • The two political parties have very different policies - they’re different as chalk and cheese.
  • The textures of silk and wool are as different as chalk and cheese - one is smooth and the other is rough.

The meanings of the words in the "different as chalk and cheese" idiom

The universal role of idioms

"Kill two birds with one stone" is an English idiom that means to accomplish two things with a single action. In French, the similar idiom is "Faire d'une pierre deux coups," which translates to "To kill two birds with one stone." This idiom highlights the efficiency of completing two tasks with one action.


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