Have one’s work cut out

Have one’s work cut out is an idiom with an origin that goes back to the 1600s. We will examine the meaning of the idiom have one’s work cut out, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To have one’s work cut out means one has a difficult task to accomplish, that one is faced with a lot of hard work, that one has difficulties to surmount in order to be successful. The idiom to have one’s work cut out dates back to the 1600s, when to have all one’s work cut out meant that one was prepared to tackle a project. Later, the term came to mean that someone had assigned you an arduous task. By the 1800s, to have one’s work cut out came into its current meaning, that one has a difficult task ahead of him. The image is of a tailor or shoemaker having his fabric or leather cut out in preparation for making a garment or shoe. Related phrases are has one’s work cut out, had one’s work cut out, having one’s work cut out.

Examples

With the average student debt now exceeding $35,000, you’ll have your work cut out for you just getting that paid off. (Forbes Magazine)

If you want to pump up your calves to Edelman-esque levels, you have your work cut out for you. (Men’s Health Magazine)

The depth forward and cousin of former coach Joel Quenneville, acquired from the Devils for John Hayden at the draft, already had his work cut out to make the Hawks’ ultra-competitive forward roster. (The Chicago Sun Times)

But coach Jacquelyn Frawley has her work cut out for her due to graduation losses. (The Journal News)