Don’t borrow trouble

  • Don’t borrow trouble is an idiom that first appeared in North America. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase or expression that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, piece of cake, hit the sack, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idiom don’t borrow trouble, where it may have come from, and some examples of its use in sentences.


    Don’t borrow trouble is an idiom that means don’t worry about something before it is time to worry about it. The idea is that worrying does not solve anything, and we often worry about things that never happen. Worrying about something that never happens wastes time and energy and distracts us from things that should command our attention today. Most people are unaware that the idiom don’t borrow trouble is an abbreviation of a longer phrase, don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow, or don’t borrow tomorrow’s troubles. This idiom came into use in North America in the mid-1800s and may be related to a passage from the Bible, Matthew 6:34: “So never worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” The idiom don’t borrow trouble admonishes us to not borrow trouble from tomorrow to deal with today. After all, tomorrow’s trouble may never come.



    On the concern about opposition to all new housing, don’t borrow trouble. (Forbes Magazine)

    (Or, as my mom would say, “Don’t rehearse tragedies. Don’t borrow trouble.”) (Harvard Health Publications)

    “Don’t borrow trouble,” is one of Helen’s favorite pieces of advice. (The Billings Gazette)

    I got teary eyed, talked to a coworker and I said, ‘Geez. My mom just got over this breast cancer and I’m not going to borrow trouble.’ ” (Business Journal Daily)

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