What does the idiom "Waste not, want not" mean?

Waste not, want not is an idiom used by many writers. When idioms are used in the right place, they open the doors of effective communication and increase your descriptive power. In this way, you will be better understood. The meaning of the expression Waste not, want not is also remarkable in this respect.

Meaning of "Waste not, want not"


The phrase “waste not, want not” is generally used as a warning or advice to encourage people to use resources carefully. This phrase implies that if one is careful with resources, they will not be in a state of want or need later on. In other words, if someone wastes resources, they may end up having to do without later.


This phrase dates back to the 1700s when it was first used in the English language and is attributed to Benjamin Franklin. The phrase was later used by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1786. Burns is credited with making the phrase more widely known and popular. It has been in use ever since and has often been modified in different languages and dialects.


This phrase is often used to warn people to be careful with how they use their resources. It is also used to remind people that what they do today can have an effect on their lives in the future. Additionally, this phrase is often used to criticize wasteful behavior.

Example Sentences

  • My mother always said “waste not, want not” when I was growing up so I learned to be careful with how I used my resources.
  • The company has taken the motto “waste not, want not” and applied it to their production process in order to reduce their waste output.
  • John’s wasteful behavior was criticized by his friends who told him “waste not, want not”.
  • It’s important to remember that “waste not, want not” – if you take care of your resources today, you’ll be thankful in the future.

The meanings of the words in the "Waste not, want not" idiom

From Shakespeare to Social Media: The Evolution of English Idioms

English idioms have been around for centuries, with many originating from sources like literature, mythology, and everyday life. Shakespeare, for example, coined many phrases that are still used today, such as "break the ice" and "heart of gold." Over time, new idioms have emerged, with social media and popular culture providing rich sources of inspiration. For instance, the phrase "throwing shade" came into use in the 1990s thanks to ball culture, but has since been popularized by social media.


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