What does the idiom "make hay while the sun shines" mean?

Are you using the idiom make hay while the sun shines but not sure about its meaning? Using idioms, which are important elements of spoken and written language, in the right place strengthens your language skills. Examine the meaning of the make hay while the sun shines idiom and the situations in which it is used.

Meaning of "make hay while the sun shines"


The proverb ‘make hay while the sun shines’ is an idiom which is used to advise people to take advantage of a situation and act quickly when an opportunity presents itself. It can also be used to warn people not to waste time when they are presented with an opportunity. The imagery used in the proverb reflects the idea that hay, a type of dried grass which is used for livestock, must be dried and prepared in a certain amount of time or else it will be wasted.


The phrase ‘make hay while the sun shines’ is thought to have originated in the 15th century, most likely from the English proverb ‘when the sun shineth, make hay.’ However, it is possible that the phrase could have originated from an even older source. In the 16th century, the phrase was used to refer to money-making, as evidenced in a collection of proverb by John Heywood.

The phrase has been used in popular culture since the 18th century. For example, a play by Richard Brome, titled ‘The Northern Lass’, contains a character who speaks the line ‘Make hay while the sun shines; sowing and reaping go together.’ This quotation is thought to be one of the earliest examples of the phrase being used in print.


The phrase ‘make hay while the sun shines’ is most commonly used to advise or encourage someone to take advantage of an opportunity. It is usually used in a general sense, and not necessarily in a financial context. For example, someone might use the phrase to advise a young person to make the most of their education before they enter the job market.

The phrase can also be used more literally, such as when someone is advising someone else to take action quickly and not let an opportunity pass them by. For example, a person might use the phrase to advise a friend to take a job offer before it is no longer available.

Example Sentences

  • “You have to make hay while the sun shines if you want to be successful.”
  • “My mother always told me to make

The meanings of the words in the "make hay while the sun shines" idiom

Idioms with similar meaning

"Don't judge a book by its cover" is an English idiom that means you shouldn't make assumptions about someone or something based solely on its appearance. In Japanese, the similar idiom is "Hana yori dango," which translates to "Dumplings rather than flowers." This idiom means that substance is more important than appearance.


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