It is what it is

The idiom it is what it is has an uncertain origin. We will examine the meaning of the idiom it is what it is, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

It is what it is means that a situation cannot be changed or mitigated. One may comment it is what it is when he cannot avoid a situation, change someone’s mind, or avoid a certain outcome. It is what it is implies acceptance; it may mean that one is resigned to his fate, or it may mean he is at peace with whatever happens. The origin of the phrase it is what it is is not clear. William Safire traced the phrase to the 1940s, when it was published in the Nebraska State Journal; however, the idiom may have been in use before that time.


“It is what it is” has never meant much to me, other than providing an air of resignation about some development. (The Canberra Times)

“It is what it is,” said Steve Land, general manager of the Elgin Public House on East Chicago Street. (The Chicago Tribune)

“It is what it is …,” said Buddy Dyker, a retired union rep and the resident sage of the Netflix show “Ozark.” (The Detroit Free Press)

Sometimes I wish my photo stories weren’t like this, but it is what it is. (The Atlantic)