The phrase “can a leopard change its spots?” is a phrase that is a question asking if anything can change its natural being. The answer to this is no. However, the phrase can be used sarcastically, too. This is asking like “Is the Pope Catholic?” or “Does a bear **** in the woods?”
Many people have taken the phrase “can a leopard change its spots?” out of context, though. They’ve done studies on changing behaviors. The question “can a leopard change its spots doesn’t refer to behaviors. It refers to what is natural.
The origin of the phrase is from the Bible. It is in Jeremiah 13:23. ” וְנָמֵ֖ר ” or “venamer” is Hebrew for “the leopard.” ” הֲיַהֲפֹ֤ךְ ” or “hayahafoch” is Hebrew for “change.” ” חֲבַרְבֻּרֹתָ֑יו ” or “chavarburotav” is Hebrew for “spot.”
The part asking if an Ethiopian can change his skin is also seen in the Hebrew. This is asking if a person with naturally dark skin can willingly make it white on his own.
The studies about behaviors show that behaviors can be changed. However, that is the point in the Bible verse, too. The natural looks cannot be changed by will alone. Only God can change these things on His own. Even though it may be difficult to change behavior, it can be done.
Asking, “can a leopard change its spots?” is not a question meant for “can somebody change behavior?” Instead, it is when something that is a natural attribute, most likely physical, that the question “can a leopard change its spots?” be asked.
Just be certain that the answer to the question is “no.” It would be very strange if somebody asked, “Is a rose a flower?” and the response given was the question, “can a leopard change its spots?”
Can a leopard change its spots? – Change Blog. (n.d.). Organisational Change Management and Facilitation . Retrieved February 11, 2011, from http://www.i-change.biz/blog/?p=2824
Jeremiah 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.. (n.d.). Online Parallel Bible: Weaving God’s Word into the Web . Retrieved February 11, 2011, from http://bible.cc/jeremiah/13-23.htm
Jeremiah 13:23 Hebrew Texts and Analysis. (n.d.). Biblos.com: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages . Retrieved February 11, 2011, from http://biblos.com/jeremiah/13-23.htm
Martin, G. (n.d.). Can a leopard change its spots?. The meanings and origins of sayings and phrases . Retrieved February 11, 2011, from http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/89725.html
Richardson, S. (n.d.). Can a Leopard Change Its Spots? | Socyberty. Socyberty | Society on the Web . Retrieved February 11, 2011, from http://socyberty.com/psychology/can-a-leopard-change-its-spots/