Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Episode 233: Cradle to the Grave

This week Shauna and Dan delve into the phrase, Cradle to the Grave. Dan prefers the contemporary term, Womb to the Tomb, but we know he has a simple mind and likes rhyming things. Bonus: Shauna enjoys metal music, plus your hosts discuss awesome names.

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Bunny Trails: A Word History Podcast
Episode 233: From the Cradle to the Grave
Record Date: April 16, 2024
Air Date: May 1, 2024


Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase.

I’m Dan Pugh

And I’m Shauna Harrison

Each week we take an idiom or other turn of phrase and try to tell the story from its entry into the English language, to how it’s used today.

Opening Hook
I had a friend when I was a teenager who always told me we’d be there for each other our entire lives. She said nothing could get in the way of it. We could go years without seeing one another but if one of us ever shows up and needs the other, we’ll be right there, ready to help. We’re there, no matter what, from cradle to grave.


The phrase "from cradle to grave" is used to express something that spans a person’s entire lifetime. It can be used rather expansively to mean the lifespan of other things as well. And sometimes is more sentimental - or more practical - than to mean a single person’s entire life.

Let’s start with the word cradle.

Cradle began being used figuratively in the mid 1500s. According to Oxford English Dictionary,

In various phrases, taken as the symbol of infancy or of the first period or stage of existence; e.g. from the (first, or very) cradle, to stifle in the cradle, watch over the cradle, etc. attributive phrase cradle-to-grave. (cf. quot. 1709.)
End quote

In the work Peter Martyr of Angleria, translated by Richard Eden, published in 1555, we find the following excerpt,

Wherwith the stomakes of owr people..haue euer byn noorisshed euen from their cradelles.
End quote

There is another phrase that is sometimes used for the same concept as from the cradle to the grave - from the womb to the tomb.

This phrase uses the keyword womb.

1576 - Womb
Oxford English Dictionary includes the figurative use of the word womb appearing around the same time as cradle.

From the womb to the tomb and variants: from birth to death; from the cradle to the grave
End quote

Here is an example from the 1576 work by George Gascoigne - The droomme of Doomes day.

Then had I been as if I were not, transferred from the Wombe to the Tombe.
End quote

There are some variants where the words are mixed up to make additional versions of this phrase but the most popular over time by far has been from the cradle to the grave.

You might be wondering why this version is more popular than the others. There is a lot of speculation around this point with many theories pointing back to linguistics and the thing that typically decides popularity… humans. And nobody actually knows why. In this case, womb to tomb sounds almost fun and it rhymes nicely. But the cadence of cradle to grave is more poignant. It’s a little bit more final. It better carries the gravitas that the phrase imparts.

For simplicity, we are going to stick primarily with the cradle to grave version for this episode. However, there may be times when another variant will appear along with it or one of the words may be exchanged for another.

Such is the case in the next item,

This comes from the 1620 work Ignis C┼ôlestis by John Lewis.  
Betweene the wombe and the tombe, the cradle and the graue, there is but a spans breadth.
End quote

Sir William Sanderson used the phrase in the title of his 1658 work, A Compleat History of the Life and Raigne of King Charles
From His Cradle to His Grave

Thomas FETTIPLACE included the phrase several times in his 1680 work, The Sinner's tears, in meditations and prayers. A comfortable prayer to be used at the point of death by the visitors of the sick.

Thy creatures are at peace with me, thy holy Angels attend me, guard me, fight for me, rejoice at my conversion; thy Saints triumphant pray for me, the Devils fly from me, and thou, O Lord, by thine almighty power and gracious providence, art ever with me, thou carest for me from the cradle to the tomb.
End quote

The Tatler. By Isaac Bickerstaff Esq • (ed. Richard Steele)


A modest Fellow never has a Doubt from his Cradle to his Grave.
End quote

In the 1800s, the phrase became popular as the title of many works.

One example is the 1864 book From the Cradle to the Grave: The Footsteps of the Church By William P. Mann. The title page include this short poem,

"Every man's friend is the Church of CHRIST, From birth to his funeral day;
She makes him the LORD's in her surpliced arms, And singeth his burial lay."
End quote

It appeared in an ad for a retailer in the The Vinita daily chieftain April 27, 1910, out of Vinita, Indian Territory, Oklahoma.

End quote

The day book. August 30, 1913, out of Chicago, Illinois. This was in a full-page poem titled Labor.

Stunted soul and body

With the marks of scourge 
and rod
the tiller of the sod,
From the cradle to the grave
Shambled through the world
- a slave!
End quote

We have a lot to cover in our modern uses and we’ll get to those, right after we say thank you to our sponsors.

A Quick Thank You
This episode is sponsored by our amazing Patrons on Patreon. And the cool thing about Patreon is it is 100% free to join the Bunny Trails community!

We have new things every weekday on the feeds. On Monday’s we have a conversation about what movies, shows, books, podcasts and whatever else everyone is enjoying, Tuesday see early access to the weeks podcast, Wednesdays have all the links, books, songs, and other content mentioned in the weeks episode, Thursday has patron’s only polls, and Friday’s are our lightly-edited behind the scenes video featuring all the cut content, goofs, and bonus facts you could imagine.

We’ve got some other pretty cool stuff, too, like Original Digital Artwork once a month, made by ME, and direct access to talk with us. No algorithm’s getting in the way of what we see or don’t see. Plus, you can get awesome name recognition like Pat Rowe does every episode. And our top spot is currently occupied by the amazing Mary Halsig Lopez.

You can join the Bunny Trails community for free at bunny trails pod on Patreon.


Modern Uses

From the Cradle to the Grave is a 1985 TV Series. IMDb says,

Documentary series about people caught up in the machinery of Britain's welfare state.
End quote

Band name: RAGE
Album name: XIII
Release date: 23 Mar 1998
Song name: Rage - From the Cradle to the Grave (OFFICIAL VIDEO)
This song has a somewhat longer intro… one of those full, rock ballad instrumentals. At 2 minutes, the song picks up into the heavy metal.

Here’s a little bit about the band from the band official website,

In 1984, RAGE was formed under the name Avenger. After the release of their debut album “Prayers Of Steel” and their EP “Depraved To Black” in 1985, the band changed their name to RAGE because there was already another band in England that also carried the same moniker.
End quote

My favorite part of their story is that their 2004 album
From The Cradle To The Stage (20th Anniversary)

From the Cradle to the Grave by Havok is Track 2 on the album Point of No Return released in 2012. Here are some of the lyrics

Trapped, scared to death
As you're running out of breath....
Don't you feel my eyes?
I've been this way
From cradle to the grave
End quote

Thug Life - Cradle To The Grave (Official Music Video)
Official Music Video for Cradle To The Grave performed by 2Pac & Thug Life.

Cradle 2 the Grave is a 2003 movie starring Jet Li and DMX.
A jewel thief's daughter is kidnapped after he steals a collection of prized black diamonds, which aren't at all what they seem.
End quote

Five Finger Death Punch released the song Cradle To The Grave in 2013.

The original recording can be found on the 2013 Prospect Park album, THE WRONG SIDE OF HEAVEN AND THE RIGHTEOUS SIDE OF HELL, VOL. 2.

Here are some of the lyrics from the song,

The blood that runs within my veins
Keeps me from ever ending up the same
The fire that’s pushing me on and on and on
To me it’s everything
And it makes me f***ing strong
Love me or hate me
I walk alone
I’ve been called a monster
Called a demon
Called a fake
I’m not an idol
Not an angel
Not a saint
I walk alone
I always have
I’m not ashamed
A living nightmare
From the cradle to the grave
End quote

Found on Saatchi Art, we find the painting titled Cradle to grave by Gergely Bukovinszki from the United Kingdom. The Painting is Oil on Canvas, originally created in 2018.

Here is a note from the creator about the work

Madness inspires me most, luckily there's plenty of it in society. Through this painting I aim to tell a story that reflects my views and observations about modern society, challenges we must face living as human beings. I paint about life as I see it, raw and painful, with a bit of humor injected perhaps. As always, hidden signs and symbols add to the story.
Ocher and blue dominate the overall mood of the artwork and combination of both delicate and rough texture provides further depth.
End quote

The European Environment Agency has this entry in their glossary of terms.

'Cradle-to-grave' assessment considers impacts at each stage of a product's life-cycle, from the time natural resources are extracted from the ground and processed through each subsequent stage of manufacturing, transportation, product use, and ultimately, disposal.
End quote

And the following comes from the Environmental Protection Agency under Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Overview

RCRA gives EPA the authority to control hazardous waste from the "cradle-to-grave." This includes the generation, transportation, treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous waste. To achieve this, EPA develops regulations, guidance and policies that ensure the safe management and cleanup of solid and hazardous waste, and programs that encourage source reduction and beneficial reuse.
End quote

Wrap up:
The phrase from the cradle to the grave encapsulates the entire lifespan of an individual in just a few words. Everyone can relate to it. It carries emotional weight and hints at themes of mortality, the passage of time, and the cyclical nature of life. It invites contemplation and reflection on the human experience and on one’s own life experiences. And I think mostly it expresses far more meaning than the individual words are capable of.  It’s very real. From Cradle to Grave.

That’s about all we have for today. If you have any thoughts on the show, or pop culture references we should have included,
reach out to us on Patreon, or comment on our website


It’s patron poll time!

Recently we asked our Patrons,

If something is available as both a video and a podcast, which one do you usually consume?

The results are lucky for us… 80% said the Audio Version was their preference.

We also asked you to share your favorite media that works this way. The first one that comes to mind for us is The Endless Knot which is available in both audio and video mediums.

Jan shared

That's almost a 50/50 question for me. If I'm home, video. If I'm driving, audio. Several of the podcasts I follow have video content I love but I'm on the road so much I often listen to the audio versions to keep caught up.
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JGP shared
Unless there is a lot of additional things that can only be accessed through the video, I tend to stick to the audio so I can do other things while listening.
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I’m the same as JGP on that front. Audio allows me to move around and get stuff done. Podcasts keep my mind entertained while I’m doing work that could be a little boring or tedious. For school lectures, I often watch the video when it’s first released and then listen to the lecture later on to reinforce the information. I can always go pull the visual materials again if I need to.


Heather said
I prefer audio, for some reason I just don't like watching someone talk (one reason I've never gotten in to tiktok). There are a few content creators I can follow on youtube, but they're usually not podcasts but instead educational videos that have more visual components. And I'm pretty picky about them! Podcasts I can take pretty much anywhere and I even feel like they keep me company; video adds a layer of distance.
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I get that. I’ve never been a fan of social media like Tiktok or Snapchat because I’m just not a huge fan of visual mediums. I enjoy listening on the go or while doing other things.

As a reminder, our silly polls mean absolutely nothing and are not scientifically valid. But they are fun. Head over to to take this week’s poll!


Thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week. Until then remember,

Words belong to their users.


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