Busman’s Holiday – Origin and Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

In the vast ocean of English idioms, the phrase busman’s holiday stands out as a peculiar and intriguing expression, doesn’t it? This oddball idiom isn’t commonly heard in everyday conversation, but it does carry a unique meaning that I’ll explore in this short guide. So, if you’ve ever heard it somewhere and wondered what it meant, now you’ll know!

Meaning Behind the Idiom Busman’s Holiday

Busmans Holiday Origin Meaning

A busman’s holiday is simply a vacation or a day off from work where the person still engages in activities similar to what they do at their regular job. In other words, it’s like a bus driver taking a holiday only to spend it driving a bus.

It’s kind of like a workaholic, someone who’s addicted to working, even when they shouldn’t be. I can’t help but remember myself years ago. I was a budding freelance writer, trying to start my career to fund my dreams of becoming an author. I went into labor with my son, and the very first thing I thought of, even before the hospital bag, was to take my laptop. I also took work with me to Mexico on the very first vacation my husband and I took together. Now that was definitely a busman’s holiday!

Origin of Busman’s Holiday

The quirky phrase busman’s holiday came about in late nineteenth-century London buses and British culture. The term busman is a colloquial term for a British bus or omnibus driver, even horse-drawn omnibuses. The phrase came to life when British drivers would spend their days off taking long rides on their own buses. Basically, doing what they do in their regular daily work.

What Is Another Word for Busman’s Holiday?

  • Working holiday
  • Work-like vacation
  • Labor-filled leisure
  • Occupational break
  • Job-like jest
  • Workaholic vacay

Busman’s Holiday Examples in a Sentence

Busmans Holiday Origin Meaning 1
  • As a professional chef, cooking on his day off felt like a busman’s holiday, but he had to eat.
  • My brother is a software engineer and spent his entire vacation working on his own coding project—it was truly a busman’s holiday.
  • Author Candace Osmond took a week-long holiday from ghostwriting but ended up working on her latest novel, so it was a busman’s holiday.
  • I always make fun of my photographer sister when she’s on vacation because she takes so many pictures. It’s more of a busman’s holiday, really.
  • My best friend Janice is a teacher, and she always says her weekends are more of a busman’s holiday because she has to help her son with his schoolwork.
  • I asked my cousin, a massage therapist, if she could give me a massage when she visits this summer for her upcoming vacation, but she said it’s not a busman’s holiday.

He said: “We all work in transport and we just thought it would be great fun to have a busman’s holiday around Wales. (The South Wales Argus)

Take a Break

Don’t bring work home, and don’t take it with you on vacation because it defeats the whole purpose of taking a break in the first place. Busman’s holiday can be applied to any situation where you or someone else finds themselves working while on break or performing similar tasks as their day job while they’re meant to be on vacation. It’s not just for when real busman drivers take a bus ride.