One in the Same – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Would you like to draw a comparison between two things that are very much like one another, or two things that happen to be exactly alike? The expression ‘one in the same’ is a common English saying that will say what you mean. This post unpacks the meaning, origin and early use of this expression.

Meaning

The expression ‘one in the same’ is a common English saying that is used to mean that two things are very much similar to one another, or that two things are exactly alike.

The term ‘one in the same’ can be used to both objects and concepts, and the term is also sometimes applied to behavior or people.

If two things are ‘one in the same’ then they are similar or exactly alike, whether the speaker refers to a physical object or to an emotion.

The expression can also be used in the opposite form if the differences between two things are being pointed out. Then it would be said that things are ‘not one in the same’ instead.

Common misuse of the expression often lists the saying as ‘and the same’ instead of ‘in the same’ although this usage of this expression is considered to be wrong.

There is no acceptable plural use, and the expression can just be adapted to say that “[they] are one in the same.”

Sometimes when the person using the expression to refer to something specific, the expression can be altered to saying “one in the same [object/subject]” or sometimes “one in the same thing”.

The expression is often used to argue for (or against) the similarity of things.

Example Usage

“My grandmother and grandfather used to wear the same size shoes. They listened to the same music. In a lot of different ways, they were one in the same.”

“There isn’t a lot of originality left in the music industry today. If you listen to enough of the same country song, then the next one on the charts just sounds one in the same.”

“Granny Smith apples are one in the same. You are trying to find apples to make a pie with, not comparing apples with oranges.”

“I don’t think it makes much of a difference whether you get the more expensive car, they’re one in the same.”

Origin

The term ‘one in the same’ is an expression that is most common in the English language, although the term has been adapted to literal translations in some other languages.

It is likely that the term ‘one in the same’ and ‘not one in the same’ to refer to the comparison of things has been in the English language since before the 1900s.

First recorded use of the term is difficult to track, but entries of the term trace it back to early editions of the Oxford English Dictionary through the thirties. Usage of the term increased in the 1930s, partially thanks to its use in newspapers and select media.

Phrases Similar to One in the Same

  • Similar

Phrases Opposite to One in the Same

  • Different
  • Like chalk and cheese

What is the Correct Saying?

  • One in the same [subject]
  • One in the same [thing]
  • One in the same

Ways People May Say One in the Same Incorrectly

There are several ways in which the term ‘one in the same’ can be used in the wrong way, or understood in the wrong context.

The term ‘one in the same’ is used to compare things that are alike, or almost alike.

The term is sometimes used as “one and the same” which is the incorrect use.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase One in the Same

The correct way to phrase the expression ‘one in the same’ is to use the expression to refer to things that are the same, or almost the same.

A person can say that something is “one in the same thing”, or that something is “one in the same [subject]”.

The term can also be used in the negative form, to indicate that something is “not one in the same [or same thing]”.

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