“Iron sharpens iron”



A simplified version of this verse says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (ESV). It speaks to the importance of having like-minded friends or mentors to challenge us to develop ourselves and become a better person.

To get what Proverbs 27:17 means in detail, scroll down or follow these links for the original scriptural meaning , biblical context and relative popularity.

“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”

Very high popularity: 8,100 searches a month
Popularity relative to other verses in Proverbs chapter 27 using average monthly Google searches.

Proverbs 27:17 Translation & Meaning

What does this verse really mean? Use this table to get a word-for-word translation of the original Hebrew Scripture. This shows the English words related to the source biblical texts along with brief definitions. Follow the buttons in the right-hand column for detailed definitions and verses that use the same root words. Use this reference information to gain deeper insight into the Bible and enrich your understanding. Information based on Strong's Exhaustive Concordance[1].

KJV Verse Original Hebrew Meaning/ Definition
This is a simplified translation of the original Hebrew word. Follow the buttons on the right to get more detail.
Use the buttons below to get details on the Hebrew word and view related Bible verses that use the same root word.
Iron בַּרְזֶ֣ל Iron (as cutting); by extension, an iron implement Iron
sharpeneth יָ֑חַד To be (causatively, make) sharp or (figuratively) severe sharpeneth
iron; בְּבַרְזֶ֣ל Iron (as cutting); by extension, an iron implement iron
so a man וְ֝אִ֗ישׁ A man as an individual or a male person; often used as an adjunct to a more definite term (and in such cases frequently not expressed in translation) man
sharpeneth יַ֣חַד To be (causatively, make) sharp or (figuratively) severe sharpeneth
the countenance פְּנֵֽי The face (as the part that turns); used in a great variety of applications (literally and figuratively); also (with prepositional prefix) as a preposition (before, etc.) countenance
of his friend. רֵעֵֽהוּ׃ An associate (more or less close) friend

Verse Context

See Proverbs 27:17 with its adjacent verses in bold below. Follow either of the two large buttons below to see these verses in their broader context of the King James Bible or a Bible concordance.

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  • 15  A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.

  • 16  Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind, and the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself.

  • 17  Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

  • 18  Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his master shall be honoured.

  • 19  As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.


The King James Bible (1611) and Strong's Concordance (1890) with Hebrew and Greek dictionaries are sourced from the BibleForgeDB database ( within the BibleForge project ( Popularity rankings are based on search volume data from the Google AdWords Keyword Planner tool.

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