What does the idiom "He has bigger fish to fry" mean?

Although the meanings of the words in them do not make any sense when examined one by one, the word groups that are shaped according to the cultural roots of the language and that make sense as a whole are called idioms. He has bigger fish to fry meaning, in what situations is it used?

Meaning of "He has bigger fish to fry"


The idiom “He has bigger fish to fry” has the figurative meaning of someone prioritizing more important goals and responsibilities than the immediate task. This means that, instead of focusing on the task at hand, the person has more pressing matters that need to be taken care of first. This phrase could also imply that the person has an opportunity to take care of more important tasks if they choose to focus on it, rather than the immediate task.


This phrase was first used in the mid 1800s. It is believed to have originated from a phrase used by fishermen, “frying small fish”. The fishermen would fry smaller fish in the frying pan while fishing for larger fish, implying that they were focusing on the larger goal of catching a bigger fish instead of the immediate task of frying the small fish. This phrase has been adapted over time to reflect the meaning of prioritizing more important tasks and goals instead of the immediate task.


This phrase is often used when someone is telling another person to focus on the more important goals in life instead of the immediate task. It can be used in a humorous way to emphasize the importance of setting goals and striving to achieve them, or it can be used to give advice to someone who is struggling with prioritizing tasks. This phrase can also be used to offer encouragement to someone who is facing a difficult situation and needs guidance on how to prioritize tasks in order to achieve their goals.

Example Sentences

  • “He may be struggling with his studies now, but don’t worry. He has bigger fish to fry.”
  • “Stop wasting your time on small tasks. You have bigger fish to fry.”
  • “She may be overwhelmed with her job now, but she’ll get through it. She has bigger fish to fry.”

The meanings of the words in the "He has bigger fish to fry" 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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