By hooke or crooke.

John Heywood (1497?-1580?) English playwright and epigrammist
Proverbes, Part 1, ch. 11 (1546)

The phrase most likely derives from English tenant rights to gather firewood "by hook or by crook" -- as much loose timber as could be pulled down from branches by a (shepherd's) crook, or cut with from underbrush by a (pruning) billhook. The phrase first appears in the 14th Century.

Added on 27-Apr-11 | Last updated 13-Jul-20
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