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An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is a well-known English proverb that’s used to describe how much easier it is to prevent a problem than wait till after it’s happened and try to fix it. The phrase supposedly originated in a letter penned by Benjamin Franklin in 1733 after learning about the city of Philadelphia’s fire-prevention methods. Today, it’s used in everyday conversations as well as in written dialogue

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure


Meaning

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is an interesting proverb. It suggests that if one takes the time to prevent something bad from happening it’s going to be easier than trying to “cure,” clean up, or fix the problem later.

By using weights as a way of measuring “prevention” and “cure” the phrase implies that one is easier or takes less effort than the other. It might seem like the easy way out to ignore a problem but, by the time it’s in full effect, getting a “cure” is going to be harder than if you’d just gone with the “ounce of prevention” to begin with. 

Origins

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is attributed to Benjamin Franklin. He was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States as well as a politician, writer, scientist, inventor, and printer. This is one of his best-known sayings.

In 1733, he supposedly visited Philadelphia and learned about the city’s fire prevention methods. He was inspired by their efforts and in a letter, published in February 1735, he wrote “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” in regard to what the city was doing. He was thinking about how preventing a fire is far easier, despite the need for forward-thinking, than rebuilding after one is. 

Example Sentences 

  • You know what they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  • This is the perfect time to remind you that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
  • If you only listened and remembered that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
  • She jumped head first into the problem, forgetting that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
  • You’re never going to make it that way. You have to remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
  • My mother always told me that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure


When to Use the Proverb

It’s possible to use “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” in a wide variety of situations. One could use it when they’re reprimanding a friend, child, or family member who acted against the proverb. But, it likely shouldn’t be used in the same context with a colleague or someone who outranks you at work or in an academic setting. It could sound condescending if used in the wrong way or if interpreted that way by someone else. 

The phrase is quite well-known so most people who hear it are going to already know it by heart. But, it may not be universally understood so if it’s used in a conversation, especially if it’s said quickly, some people might not understand what you’re trying to say. 

Why Do Writers Use the Phrase?

Writers use “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” in the same way and for the same reasons that it’s used in everyday conversations. It can be incorporated into a dialogue between two characters where one is trying to remind another that it’s better to prevent an outcome than deal with the consequences later. For some, this is easy to understand. For others, it might be a way of understanding the world that goes against their nature. This means that there are many conflicting situations in which it could be easy to use the saying. 

All that being said, proverbs like this one are often overused. This means that a reader might encounter it within a creative piece of writing and feel as though the writer wasn’t trying hard enough or turned to a cliché because they’re easy to use. Some authors won’t use proverbs and idioms for this exact reason. In another situation, a writer might choose to use the phrase specifically for this reason. It might feel natural and easy and therefore convey the cadence of a real conversation. 

FAQs 

Why do people use “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?”

People use this phrase when they want to remind one another that taking the time to prevent a problem is better and easier than cleaning up after one. It is usually used when someone is trying to offer a helpful piece of advice. 

Is it okay to use “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” 

It depends on the situation. It is likely not going to be appropriate if you’re talking to your boss or to anyone who outranks you at work. In the same way, one likely shouldn’t use it in an academic setting. It is a very casual and colloquial phrase so it isn’t going to sound professional. 

Who first said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” 

It’s believed that Benjamin Franklin was the first one to use this phrase. At least, his letter written in 1733 is the first written record of the proverb being used. He was thinking about Philadelphia’s fire-prevention methods. 


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