Better safe than sorry

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Better safe than sorry is a proverb. A proverb is a short, common saying or phrase. It particularly gives advice or shares a universal truth, or imparts wisdom. Synonyms for proverb include adage, sayings, and byword, which can also be someone or something that is the best example of a group. Often, a proverb is so familiar that a speaker will only quote half of it, relying on the listener to supply the ending of the written or spoken proverb himself. Speakers of English as a second language are sometimes confused by these expressions as translations do not carry the impact that the English phrases carry. Some common proverbs are better late than never, you reap what you sow, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, never look a gift horse in the mouth, a rolling stone gathers no moss, and haste makes waste. One of the books of the Bible is the Book of Proverbs, which contains words and phrases that are still often quoted in the English language because they are wise. Many current proverbs are taken from literature, particularly Shakespeare, as well as the Bible and other sacred writings. We will examine the meaning of the expression better safe than sorry, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Better safe than sorry means it is better to take preliminary precautions than to suffer possible consequences. For instance, a person may fasten his seat belt even though he does not believe he will be involved in a wreck, because it’s better to be safe than sorry. Someone make take an umbrella to work even though there is only a thirty percent chance that it will rain, because it is better to be safe than sorry. The proverb better safe than sorry may be used as an admonition when someone is about to make a hurried or rash decision without considering all the possible consequences. Sometimes only the first part, better safe, is quoted to agree that the person being spoken to is taking a rational path. The earliest known use of the phrase better safe than sorry occurred in the novel  Rory O’More: A National Romance written by Samuel Lover and published in 1837. The proverb seems to have become fairly common by the latter half of the 1800s.


If there is a lesson to learn from the above cases, it’s that we’re better safe than sorry. (The Toronto Sun)

“We finally had to close,” he said, citing the old saying about one needing to be better safe than sorry. (The Rocky Mount Telegram)

“It didn’t end up raining, but it’s alright, better safe than sorry,” she went on. (W Magazine)

Still, if your cat has a curious palate, better safe than sorry – don’t leave chocolate out. (The INsider)

Just as notably, Deal and his advisers embraced a better-safe-than-sorry mantra after that gridlocked chaos, declaring emergencies and calling for state employees to stay home at the threat of severe weather. (The Atlanta Journal Constitution)


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