a bad apple spoils the (whole) barrel

a bad apple spoils the (whole) barrel

1. It only takes one bad person, thing, element, etc., to ruin the entire group, situation, project, etc. Refers to the fact that a rotting apple can cause other apples in close proximity to begin to rot as well. Primarily heard in US. A: "It used to be considered the top research facility in the region, but after one of its researchers was discovered to have plagiarized a number of his papers, the whole department's reputation has been dragged through the mud." B: "Well, a bad apple spoils the barrel." I really loved my job, but there was this one jerk there who made life miserable for everyone. One bad apple spoils the whole barrel, unfortunately. A: "Jeremy is such a brat. He won't listen to a word I say, and he gets the other kids all riled up too!" B: "Well, you know what they say—a bad apple spoils the whole barrel."
2. proverb The criminal, unethical, corrupt, or otherwise negative behavior of a single person will spread to other people around them. Ever since that crook took over as CEO, the company has been backsliding into shadier and shadier business arrangements. A bad apple really does spoil the barrel. A: "Is it any wonder? When corrupt liars take office, suddenly everyone who benefits from them starts to believe—and spread—their lies to maintain the status quo." B: "It's true, then, that a bad apple spoils the whole barrel." Well, a bad apple spoils the whole barrel, right? So why give the job to a shifty character like Michael?
See also: apple, bad, barrel, spoil
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
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