All's fair in love and war  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

All's fair in love and war is a dictum which means that unpleasant behavior is acceptable during love and conflict.

The idea is perhaps first recorded in Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote (1604):

"Love and war are all one . . . It is lawful to use sleights and stratagems to . . . attain the wished end."

The exact phrasing that we know today is thought to be by Frank Smedley in his novel, Frank Fairlegh: Scenes from the Life of a Private Pupil:

"You opened the letter!" exclaimed I.
"In course I did; how was I to read it if I hadn't? All's fair in love and war, you know . . ."

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