What does the idiom "give and take" mean?

Idioms are generally defined as groups of words that form a meaningful whole when they come together, even though the words in them do not make sense on their own. They have produced many idioms according to their own cultural characteristics in communities using the English language. What does give and take mean? In what situations is give and take used?

Meaning of "give and take"


The idiomatic phrase “give and take” is defined as the ability to be flexible, to compromise and to be willing to accept and make concessions in order for two parties or individuals to reach a resolution. It is used to describe the process of communication, negotiation, and collaboration that leads to a successful result.


The phrase “give and take” has been around since the early 19th century and was derived from the verb “give,” which means “to provide or part with;” as well as the verb “take,” which means “to receive or acquire something.” This phrase was popularized by the poet Robert Browning in an 1845 poem entitled “A Grammarian’s Funeral.” In the poem, Browning uses the phrase to refer to the necessary exchange of words, ideas, and thoughts that is required for communication and learning.


The phrase “give and take” is used to describe the kind of compromise that is often necessary to reach a resolution in any kind of negotiation, whether it is in business, politics, or personal relationships. The term is often used in the context of relationships as it implies that both individuals are willing to listen to one another and make concessions in order to reach a beneficial result.

Example Sentences

  • “You need to be willing to practice a little give and take in order to reach a compromise.”
  • “The negotiations required a lot of give and take between both sides.”
  • “The best relationships are based on understanding, respect, and a willingness to practice give and take.”

The meanings of the words in the "give and take" idiom

Idioms with similar meanings in different languages

"Barking up the wrong tree" is an English idiom that means to pursue a mistaken or misguided course of action. In German, the similar idiom is "Auf dem Holzweg sein," which translates to "To be on the wrong track." This idiom emphasizes the idea that when you are pursuing the wrong course of action, you are not going to achieve your desired outcome.


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