It Is What It Is – Origin & 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.

Are you looking for an English phrase expressing a kind of resigned acceptance? Then “it is what it is” might be just the one for you! Not only does this expression capture a sense of inevitability, but its interesting origin story points to how language changes and evolves. So, I’ll explore the “it is what it is” meaning and origin so you can incorporate it into your language repertoire. Let’s get started!

About the It Is What It Is Saying

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The common phrase “it is what it is” is usually used to express a sense of acceptance, particularly in situations where we cannot change the current circumstances. It implies that no matter our feelings about something, we can still recognize that this particular thing or event is immutable and unchangeable.

By saying, “it is what it is,” we acknowledge our powerlessness against certain events and situations and recognize their inevitability and immutability.

Creative people like me sometimes use the saying when we’re done with a project and simply can’t, or don’t want to, add to it. “Meh, it is what it is.”

The Hidden Meaning of the Phrase “It Is What It Is”

“it is what it is” is often used to express acceptance or resignation in a difficult situation.

While it can be seen as a lack of desire or motivation to change or improve circumstances, the hidden meaning behind this phrase is deep understanding and acceptance that some things are beyond our control.

It implies that we should accept the reality of a situation without judgment or attachment and look forward with hope rather than dwelling on the negative aspects.

“It is what it is” is an important reminder that our circumstances are only temporary. Even challenging times will eventually pass if we can maintain an open heart and positive mindset.

Who Did First Say It Is What It Is?

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It is what it is usage trend.

Although it appears the origin of it is what it is goes back to Shakespeare’s work, some claim it appeared more recently.

The phrase goes back to 1949, when it was first used by J.E. Lawrence in one of his articles.

“New land is harsh, and vigorous, and sturdy. It scorns evidence of weakness. There is nothing of sham or hypocrisy in it. It is what it is, without apology.”

The phrase became used in politics, the military, and psychology. It’s often used to describe a situation that simply can’t be changed.

It Is What It Is in Philosophy

The idea of “it is what it is” has been explored in philosophy for centuries, with various interpretations. Philosophers have interpreted it as a resigned attitude towards an immutable reality, where we should accept and move on without attempting to make any changes.

Others still argue that accepting and embracing circumstances this way is a liberating experience that allows us to appreciate life more fully.

Ultimately, “it is what it is” can be seen as a reminder not to further expound on our suffering by looking for reasons where there may be none but rather to take the necessary steps forward courageously and make the most out of every situation.

Using It Is What It Is in a Sentence

Here are some examples I created that show how to use “it is what it is” in a sentence:

  • We planned to go to the beach yesterday, but it started raining. It is what it is.
  • I guess it is what it is. We can’t attend the concert anymore.
  • As much as I’d love to, I can’t change what happened in the past. It is what it is.
  • Whenever we ask why he didn’t show up at the competition, he keeps shrugging and saying, “it is what it is.”

The Bottom Line

“It is what it is” encourages us to accept reality the way it is instead of deluding ourselves with false hopes and promises of change. It can also be used as a point of positive motivation. By accepting things without resistance, we can more easily find ways to make the best of any situation. It can also be used as an excuse by people to brush off something they did.