Glossary Home Idioms

You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs

“You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” implies that breaking eggs, or making sacrifices, is necessary for success.

“You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” is the perfect example of an English-language idiom. It makes perfect sense when it’s heard in context as a common phrase in everyday conversation. But, for someone who has never heard the line before, it’s likely going to seem strange. An idiom is, by definition, a phrase that requires context to understand. Hearing it on its own does not relay anything about its meaning. 

You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs

 

Meaning of “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs”

“You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” is an interesting and amusing idiom that suggests that one can’t succeed without making some sacrifices. The definition is vague because it’s possible to apply this idiom to a variety of situations. The “omelet,” a metaphor for the desired goal, could be anything from a job to a relationship. The broken eggs might be, respectively, friendships or a career. Depending on how the phrase is applied, it is possible to use it negatively, suggesting that one is willing to harm others to get what they want. This might be betraying friends or work colleagues, lying, stealing, or worse. 

 

When To Use “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs”

It’s possible to use “you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” when speaking about almost anything. It’s best used around friends and family members or close work colleagues. Since it is a colloquialism, it will likely not be found in professional settings like meetings, academic papers, or speeches. If one is seeking to write a very professional and academic-sounding piece of text, idioms are not appropriate stylistic choices. 

 

Example Sentences With “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” 

  • Well, you know what they say, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. 
  • I know you love your friends, but you have to break a few eggs if you want to make an omelet. 
  • Don’t let him get you down. He knows you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. 
  • The best lesson my father ever taught me was about breaking eggs to make an omelet. 
  • Everyone has something they’re willing to lose to achieve their goals. I know I have some eggs I’d be willing to break. 
  • I refuse to sink to their level. I want what I want, but I’m not willing to break the eggs to get it.

 

Why Do Writers Use “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs?” 

Writers use “you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” in the same way and for the same reasons that it’s used in everyday dialogue. When crafting dialogue between characters in a short story, novel, or play, often writers will turn to idioms, proverbs, or other similar colloquialisms in order to make the language sound as relatable as possible. If a character in a story uses the same phrases that a reader does, it’s more likely the reader will understand who this person is. Or at least relate to them on some new level. 

 

Origins of “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” 

The earliest citation of “you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary is from Walker’s Hibernian Magazine, specifically an issue from 1796. This publication described itself as a compendium of entertaining knowledge,” and one of the pieces of knowledge that it shared was the capture and death of Charette, a famous general of La Vendée, a leader of a Royalist counter-revolt during the French Revolution. Charette was captured and put on trial. When speaking about the trial the magazine relayed what was said:

It was remarked to him that he had caused the death of a great many persons. Yes, he replied, omelets are not made without breaking eggs.

Here, he was using the phrase negatively, suggesting that the loss of human life was worth his end goal. 

 

Related Idioms 

  • “Find the silver lining.” 
  • “Count your blessings.” 
  • A blessing in disguise.” 
  • “Grin and bear it.” 
  • “Beyond the pale.”
  • “Gave me a leg up.”
  • “Well begun is half done.”

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