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be a thorn in (someone's) side

To be a constant or persistent cause of annoyance, frustration, or trouble. My professor was an environmental activist when he was younger, and, apparently, he was quite a thorn in the oil companies' sides at the time.
See also: side, thorn

crown of thorns

Something that causes one pain and suffering. Alludes to the crown of thorns that Jesus was made to wear before his crucifixion. Its usage is similar to the phrase "cross to bear. I can't stand to see how sick she has become. This illness is a real crown of thorns. This class is my crown of thorns. No matter how much I study, I just keep getting awful grades.
See also: crown, of, thorn

There's no rose without a thorn.

Prov. to enjoy any beautiful or pleasant thing, you must endure something difficult or painful. Mike: My bride is lovely and gracious, but I'm discovering that she has a terrible temper. Bill: There's no rose without a thorn.
See also: rose, thorn, without

*thorn in someone's side

 and *thorn in someone's flesh
Fig. a constant bother or annoyance to someone. (*Typically: be ~; become ~.) This problem is a thorn in my side. I wish I had a solution for it. John was a thorn in my flesh for years before I finally got rid of him.
See also: side, thorn

a thorn in somebody's/something's side

also a thorn in the side of somebody/something
someone or something that continually causes problems Most teachers usually have one student in their class who is a thorn in their side. The town finds the casino a thorn in its side, even though it brings huge numbers of tourists to the town. Health inspectors are a thorn in the side of most restaurant owners.
See also: side, thorn

be a thorn in somebody's flesh/side

someone or something that keeps annoying you or causing you trouble A relentless campaigner, he was a thorn in the government's side for years.
See also: flesh, thorn

thorn in one's flesh

Also, thorn in one's side. A constant source of irritation, as in Paul's complaining and whining are a thorn in my flesh, or Mother's always comparing us children-it's a thorn in our sides. This metaphoric expression appears twice in the Bible. In Judges 2:3 it is enemies that "shall be as thorns in your sides"; in II Corinthians 12:7 Paul says his infirmities are "given to me a thorn in the flesh."
See also: flesh, thorn
References in classic literature ?
Just in front of the lion the boy placed the butt of his spear upon the ground, gave a mighty spring, and, before the bewildered beast could guess the trick that had been played upon him, sailed over the lion's head into the rending embrace of the thorn tree--safe but lacerated.
When he was at a safe distance the boy extricated himself from the thorn tree; but not without inflicting new wounds upon his already tortured flesh.
Then he chased the bright winged flies, and wounded them with the sharp thorn he carried for a sword; he broke the spider's shining webs, lamed the birds, and soon wherever he passed lay wounded insects and drooping flowers; while the winds carried the tidings over the garden, and bird and blossom looked upon him as an evil spirit, and fled away or closed their leaves, lest he should harm them.
However, he was back again in a few moments, having tucked under his chin the end of a tuft of wool (probably left on the thorn by a wandering sheep), which made a magnificent beard, that reached nearly down to his feet.
The command of the ship was intrusted to Jonathan Thorn, of New York, a lieutenant in the United States navy, on leave of absence.
With the same anxious forethought he wrote a letter of instructions to Captain Thorn, in which he urged the strictest attention to the health of himself and his crew, and to the promotion of good-humor and harmony on board his ship.
And if any man should do wrong, merely out of ill-nature, why, yet it is but like the thorn or briar, which prick and scratch, because they can do no other.
All night long you must sing to me, and the thorn must pierce your heart, and your life-blood must flow into my veins, and become mine.
All night long she sang, and the thorn went deeper and deeper into her breast, and her life-blood ebbed away from her.
But the Tree cried to the Nightingale to press closer against the thorn.
So the Nightingale pressed closer against the thorn, and louder and louder grew her song, for she sang of the birth of passion in the soul of a man and a maid.
As he came near, the Lion put out his paw, which was all swollen and bleeding, and Androcles found that a huge thorn had got into it, and was causing all the pain.
He pointed to what looked like a long, dark thorn stuck in the skin just above the ear.
the thorn of anxiety is as nearly the mark as I am likely to get--May it come out at last
Bazzard, with a frowning smile at the fire, put a hand into his tangled locks, as if the thorn of anxiety were there; then into his waistcoat, as if it were there; then into his pockets, as if it were there.