rotten apple spoils the barrel

a rotten apple spoils the (whole) barrel

1. Proverb 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. 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 rotten apple spoils the barrel." I really loved my job, but there was this one jerk there who made life miserable for everyone. One rotten apple spoils the whole barrel, unfortunately.
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 rotten 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 rotten apple spoils the whole barrel."
See also: apple, barrel, rotten, spoil

rotten apple spoils the barrel

Prov. A bad person influences everyone he or she comes into contact with, making them bad too. Helen is the rotten apple that spoils the barrel in our office. Everyone sees her come in late to work and take long coffee breaks, and they think, "Why can't I do the same?"
See also: apple, barrel, rotten, spoil

rotten apple spoils the barrel, a

One bad individual can spoil an entire group. The idea was stated as long ago as the fourteenth century (in a Latin proverb sometimes translated as “the rotten apple injures its neighbors”), long before the mechanism of spreading mold or other plant disease was understood. Benjamin Franklin repeated the sentiment in Poor Richard’s Almanack (1736): “The rotten apple spoils his companion.”
See also: apple, rotten, spoil
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