In the Same Boat

All in the same boat

Over the past year, and before, we’ve often been told that we’re all “in the same boat”, at least in the UK. The intention is to suggest that we are all in a similar situation or predicament, and the expression is often used by those in positions of power, wealth and privilege.

The idea of being in the same boat meaning ‘having the same fate’ first appeared in writing in 1584 in Thomas Hudson’s translation of Du Bartas’ Historie of Judith:

haue ye paine ? so likewise paine haue we :
For in one bote we both imbarked be.
Vpon one tide, one tempest doeth vs tosse,
Your common ill, it is our common losse.

It appeared more or less in the current form in writing by Thomas Taylor, a British cleryman in 1629. He said:

He is in the same boate which is tossed and threatned with the tempest, and is someway interessed in the common cause, and quarrell.


Equivalents of this phrase in French include:

  • être logés à la même enseigne = to be lodged at the same sign
  • être dans le même bateau = to be in the same boat
  • être dans la même galère = to be in the same galley
  • être dans la même barque = to be in the same rowing boat
  • être dans le même pétrin = to be in the same kneading trough
  • être dans le même bain = to be in the same bath


Which of these, if any, is most commonly used?

In other languages, such as Dutch, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian and Japanese, you can talk about being in the same boat. Are there any languages in which this idea is referred to without mentioning boats?

3 thoughts on “In the Same Boat

  1. We are in the same boat in the US as in the UK (it must be a really big boat), but I am puzzled by the assertion that “the expression is often used by those in positions of power, wealth and privilege”. My experience is that the expression is used by everybody, without regard to one’s position in life.

    When I am in the same position as others, and it’s a bad one, I would say “we’re up the creek without a paddle”, or worse (but funnier), “we’re up the creek without a boat”.

  2. The phrase is indeed used by everybody, but it seems particularly popular with politicians and other rich, powerful people who like to make us think that they have the same problems as everybody else, when quite obviously they don’t.

    We’re up the creek in the same boat without a paddle, and the boat is leaking.

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