‘In The Same Boat’: Definition, Meaning and Examples

By Sophia Merton, updated on July 23, 2023

Did someone use the phrase 'in the same boat', and you’re wondering what it means? In this article, we’ll take a look at the meaning, origin, examples, and more.

  • ‘In the same boat’ is an idiom and a metaphor that means that two or more people are facing the same situation or problem.
  • Dating back to the late 16th century, this is still a very common English expression.

What Does 'In the Same Boat' Mean?

The idiom ‘in the same boat’ means to be in the same predicament or situation. Essentially, a group of people that are all ‘in the same boat’ all share the same problems.

When you think about the phrase, it actually makes a lot of sense. When two people are ‘in the same boat’ out at sea, one can’t simply escape the situation by getting off the boat. Two people on the same boat, therefore, share the same fate whether they like it or not.

Where Does 'In the Same Boat' Come From?

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the image of ‘being in the same boat’ with the meaning of “subject to similar challenges and difficulties” dates back to the 1580s.

Another source dates the phrase to the same time period, stating that it comes from 16th-century Britain. In a translation of Historie of Judith in 1584 by Thomas Hudson, he created a metaphor with the implication that being ‘in the same boat’ is equivocal to ‘having the same fate.’

Here is the original appearance of the phrase:

“ Haue ye paine? so likewise paine haue we: For in one bote we both imbarked be.”

The metaphor was used again by the clergyman Thomas Tyalor in 1629:

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

Examples of This Idiom In Sentences

How would this phrase be used in a sentence?

Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • “I’m surprised to find that they’re not being very cooperative considering that we’re basically in the same boat.
  • “This is a huge problem, John, and I don’t understand why you don’t seem to care. Are you even aware that this impacts you, too? You realize we’re in the same boat if this merger doesn’t go through, don’t you?”
  • “I totally understand what you mean about wishing you could travel more. Jacob and I are in the same boat– it’s been really hard to get away and take a vacation since we had kids.”
  • “Jeremy has been talking about how lonely he is recently. Honestly, I’m in the same boat. I was so excited to move away from home when I was younger, but now I really want to see a familiar face.”
  • “I don’t really like my coworker, but we’re ultimately in the same boat. If they decide to start downsizing, we’re both on the chopping block.”

Other Ways to Say This Phrase

What other words and phrases have a similar meaning to 'in the same boat'?

Here are some options:

  • In the same situation
  • All in this together
  • Having the same problem
  • In the same circumstances
  • In a similar situation

Quotes Using the Idiom

‘In the same boat’ is an old expression that has been a part of the English language for hundreds of years. Many famous writers, politicians, creatives, and other public figures have used the idiom in their writing and speech.

“The essential point here is that all people with small, secure incomes are in the same boat and ought to be fighting on the same ride. Probably we could do with a little less talk about capitalist’ and proletarian and a little more about the robbers and the robbed.”

- George Orwell

I don’t worry about it because we are all growing old. If I were the only one I would worry. But we’re all in the same boat, and all of my friends are coming with me. We all go towards old age. How many years left we don’t know. We just have to accept it.”

- Ingrid Bergman

“Asked if any army can be made to imitate the SHUAI-JAN, I should answer, Yes. For the men of Wu and the men of Yueh are enemies; yet if they are crossing a river in the same boat and are caught by a storm, they will come to each other’s assistance just as the left-hand helps the right.”

- Sun Tzu

“We form our impression not globally, by placing ourselves in the broadest possible context, but locally, by comparing ourselves to people in the same boat as ourselves.”

- Malcolm Gladwell

Whether one traces his Americanism back three centuries to the Mayflower, or three years to the steerage, is not half so important as whether his Americanism of today is real and genuine. No matter by what various crafts we came here, we are all now in the same boat.”

- Calvin Coolidge

“He at once resolved to accompany me to that island, ship aboard the same vessel, get into the same watch, the same boat; the same mess with me, in short to share my every hap; with both my hands in his, boldly dip into the Potluck of both worlds.” 

- Herman Melville

“At best, the true philosopher can fulfill his mission very imperfectly, which is to pilot himself, or at most a few voluntary companions who may find themselves in the same boat.”

- George Satayana

Final Thoughts About 'In the Same Boat'

‘In the same boat’ is an idiom that can be used to indicate that people are facing the same problem or situation. Dating back to the late 16th century, this is still a commonly used phrase that you can use in your writing and everyday speech.

Are you ready to learn more English phrases and expand your vocabulary? Be sure to check out our idioms blog for idioms, expressions, sayings, and more!

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Written By:
Sophia Merton
Sophia Merton is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Sophia received her BA from Vassar College. She is passionate about reading, writing, and the written word. Her goal is to help everyone, whether native English speaker or not, learn how to write and speak with perfect English.

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