Nothing is certain but death and taxes

Nothing is certain but death and taxes is a proverb that dates back several hundred years. A proverb is a short, common saying or phrase. These common sayings are language tools that particularly give advice or share a universal truth, or impart wisdom. Synonyms for proverb include adage, aphorism, 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 pithy sayings as translations from English to other languages do not carry the impact that the English phrases carry. Some common proverbs are the wise sayings better late than never, early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, haste makes waste, blood is thicker than water, and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. 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 quotations taken from literature, particularly Shakespeare, as well as the Bible and other sacred writings. We will examine the meaning of the expression nothing is certain but death and taxes, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Nothing is certain but death and taxes is a proverb that means one cannot avoid the inevitable, that certain things in life are common to all men and cannot be avoided. A man may not escape death, and a man cannot escape paying taxes. The origin of the phrase is generally attributed to Benjamin Franklin. In a letter written to Jean-Baptiste Le Roy in 1789, Franklin says: “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” However, an even earlier version of this sentiment was written my Daniel Defoe in his Political History of the Devil, 1726: “Things as certain as death and taxes, can be more firmly believ’d.” Like most proverbs, the sentiment is often shortened to a simple exclamation of death and taxes as a fatalistic observation that describes something that is inevitable and unavoidable.


While it is said nothing is certain but death and taxes, it also holds true that all taxes die hard. (The Epoch Times)

Nothing is certain but death and taxes, as the old saying goes, but Lake Erie erosion could probably be added to the idiom. (The Star Beacon)

“Nothing is certain but death and taxes” – oh, and one more thing: when you go camping, it will rain. (The Huffington Post)

If nothing is certain but death and taxes, it’s inevitable that some elected officials will pass away during their terms — or sometimes before they even begin. (The Nevada Independent)

Leave a Comment