What does the idiom "make allowances for" mean?

The phrase make allowances for is often used in English, but what does this idiom mean? When idioms are used in the right situations, they strengthen communication and enrich the language. You can communicate more effectively by learning the meaning of make allowances for.

Meaning of "make allowances for"


To make allowances for someone or something is to take into account and accept certain conditions or limits, often temporary, when making decisions or judgments. It can also mean to be understanding and forgiving of another person’s mistakes or faults.


The phrase 'make allowances for' first appeared in the early 17th century. The phrase's earliest known use dates back to John Flavel's book The Fountain of Life, 1676. The phrase was initially used to describe providing for someone in a will or testament. Over time, its usage has evolved to encompass a wider range of meanings.


The phrase 'make allowances for' is often used to describe a situation in which the person making decisions or judgments takes into account certain conditions or limits before making those judgments. It is commonly used to discuss understanding and forgiving another person's mistakes or faults. For example, if someone has had a particularly trying day, you might tell them to make allowances for themselves as they may not be in the right frame of mind to make decisions or carry out tasks.

Example Sentences

  • When judging her performance, it's important to make allowances for the fact that she's new to the job.
  • I think it's important to make allowances for other people's mistakes.
  • The examiners decided to make allowances for the students who had previously missed lessons due to illness.
  • When discussing her work, it's important to make allowances for the current difficulties she's been facing.

The meanings of the words in the "make allowances for" idiom

The Global Spread of English Idioms

As English has become a global language, its idioms have spread far beyond the borders of the UK and USA. For instance, the idiom "beat around the bush" has equivalents in many other languages, such as "tourner autour du pot" in French and "dar vueltas al asunto" in Spanish. Meanwhile, other idioms have been adapted for local contexts, such as the Russian idiom "?? ???? ???????" (ne svoya rubashka), which translates to "not one's own shirt," meaning to be in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar situation.


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