What does the idiom "Live and learn" 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 Live and learn mean? In what situations is Live and learn used?

Meaning of "Live and learn"


The idiom "live and learn" is a phrase that is used to indicate that one has gained knowledge or insight through experiences, usually through making mistakes and learning from them. It is often used as an expression of acceptance and understanding in a positive light when someone has experienced something new and unforeseen.


This phrase can be traced back to the Latin proverb "disce et vivere," which translates to "learn and live" or "learn in order to live." This phrase was later popularized by the 16th century English poet Thomas Nashe, who used it in his works such as A Litany in Time of Plague, written in 1593. The idea behind the phrase has been around for centuries before that, however, and can be seen in many different cultures, suggesting it is a universal concept.


The idiom "live and learn" has become commonly used in everyday language and is most often used to express a sense of resignation when faced with a problem or dilemma. It can be used to affirm that a situation which has occurred, no matter how unpleasant or unexpected, is not as bad as it seemed and that something can always be learned from it. It can also be a show of comfort when someone has made a mistake or failed at something, in order to provide a sense of encouragement.

Example Sentences

  • "I didn't know the answer to the question, but such is life - live and learn!"
  • "I failed the exam, but I guess I'll just have to live and learn."
  • "It's been a difficult journey, but I'm sure I can take something away from it. Live and learn, right?"

The meanings of the words in the "Live and learn" idiom

Beyond the Literal: Figurative Language in Idioms

Idioms often use figurative language to convey a message that is not meant to be taken literally. For instance, the idiom "bite the bullet" means to endure a painful or difficult situation without complaint, while "hold your horses" means to be patient and wait. Other idioms, like "kick the bucket" or "pop your clogs," use euphemisms to talk about death.


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