What does “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” mean? Here’s a quick and simple definition:
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is one of the most popular idioms in the English language. But, its origins are more complex than its common usage might suggest.
Explore Don't put all your eggs in one basket
- 1 What is an Idiom?
- 2 Meaning of “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”
- 3 Origins of “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”
- 4 When to Use “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”
- 5 Example Sentences with “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”
- 6 Why Do Writers Use “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket?”
- 7 Related Idioms
What is an Idiom?
An idiom is a short saying, the meaning of which is not deducible from the individual words. Context is key when it comes to idioms, especially for more complicated ones like “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Some, like “no pain, no gain,” “pull yourself together,” or “benefit of the doubt,” are clearer than others. Idioms are often difficult for new English speakers to grasp due to contextual necessity and historical usage.
Meaning of “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”
The phrase suggests that someone has physically put all the eggs they have in one basket and is then at risk of dropping the basket, losing everything they worked hard for. Alternatively, the idiom suggests, you should weigh your alternatives and put some eggs in one basket and some in another. Meaning, apply to multiple job opportunities/universities or save some money, so you’re not desperate for help if the bet goes wrong.
Origins of “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”
Like most idioms, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” does not have a confirmed origin or creator to whom it can be attributed. The first example of the idiom in writing comes from the 17th century. It was likely of Spanish or Italian origin. There is a wonderful quote from Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, where the phrase is used. It reads:
[…] ’is the part of a wise man to keep himself today for tomorrow, and not venture all his eggs in one basket.
This novel was published in 1615, with other examples following 1666 and then later into the 1800s.
When to Use “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”
The proper time to use this idiom, or to write it, comes when someone you know or a character in a story is about to do something quite risky. For example, one character in a story might be about to bet all his money on a race. The idiom “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” would be applicable in this circumstance and all similar ones. Another good example is if someone is willing to quit their job, move across the country, and leave their family for a new relationship. This would be another example of committing everything to “one basket,” or in this case, one person/relationship. If it doesn’t work out, then the person will be worse off than they were original.
If someone hears this idiom and takes the advice it offers, they won’t commit to “one basket” and instead stretch themselves between multiple options.
Example Sentences with “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”
- “I really love her, but I don’t want to quit my job and put all my eggs in one basket.”
- “I think I’m going to go ahead and put all my eggs in one basket and apply for this dream job.”
- “She didn’t listen to her mother when she told her not to put all her eggs in one basket. She ended up broke and living at home.”
Why Do Writers Use “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket?”
In a story, a writer might use this phrase to signify that a character is taking a big risk or is willing to lose a lot to achieve something. While it once was quite original, today, the phrase is very commonplace and even cliche. If a writer uses it nowadays, it is more likely to be in an ironic context than a genuine one. Someone might use it as a way of saying, “I told you so.”
- “A penny saved is a penny earned”
- “Benefit of the doubt”
- “The best of both worlds”
- “Get your act together”
- “A blessing in disguise”