A Bed of Roses – Idiom, Meaning & Origin

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Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

Idioms are figurative words and phrases in English that add detail and interest to a sentence that might otherwise be basic and boring. They usually originate from a literal action or subject but have taken on an illusionary usage over time.

The phrase a bed of roses is an example of this. A flower bed of roses is generally enjoyed for its beauty and fragrance, but what does it mean when someone applies it to an experience? Learn about what this idiomatic phrase means, its origins, and how to use it in a sentence below.

What Is the Meaning of “A Bed of Roses”?

A Bed of Roses Idiom Meaning Origin

The meaning of the idiom a bed of roses is used to describe something that is not difficult or effortless in action or experience. It is something that is pleasant or luxurious or is an easy option compared to other similar situations.

It is often used synonymously to mean comfortable.

For example:

  • The last leg of the trip was an absolute bed of roses compared to the first 1500 miles, during which we encountered torrential downpours and at least four traffic delays.
  • This new job was something of a bed of roses for her since it included a paid gym membership and flexible hours, allowing her to attend her children’s baseball games.
  • After receiving the inheritance, his life was a complete bed of roses, but at least he was smart about the money and invested it wisely for future comfort.

What Does No Bed of Roses Mean?

Just like using a bed of roses to mean something is easy and pleasant, something that is no bed of roses means it is difficult, unpleasant or downright disagreeable.

For example:

  • I can tell you now that class was no bed of roses; I’m not sure I’ve ever worked so hard for a professor in my life.

Origins of the Idiom “A Bed of Roses”

Bed of Roses Ngram
Bed of roses usage trend.

The expression a bed of roses became an idiom in the mid-1500s. All flowers, particularly roses, have long held various meanings throughout history. So it’s no surprise that a literal garden bed of roses would become figurative in use.

Enjoyed for their long-lasting blooms suitable for flower arrangements and heady scents, roses have been bred and hybridized for centuries as an artistic way to enjoy their beauty. Early roses were easy to cultivate and could be found in even a simple household yard despite the luxurious gardens they also occupied.

One of the first documented uses of the phrase a bed of roses was published in 1593 in Christopher Marlowe’s poem “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”:

“And I will make thee beds of roses, And a thousand fragrant posies, A cap of flowers, and a kirtle, Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle….”

In context, the line refers to the life of leisure and beauty he would like to create for his love. Each stanza highlights the literal luxuries he wants for her if she would only come and be his.

Due to the long history of roses as a symbol of various things, it’s likely variations of the idiom have been used long before being placed in print.

Let’s Review

When something is a bed of roses, it means it is easy, comfortable or luxurious. Variations of this idiomatic phrase have likely been in use for longer than we have proof due to the long history of roses and their symbolic meanings.

You can also use the phrase in the negative as no bed of roses to mean that something is challenging.