Waste not, want not

Waste not, want not is a proverb that has been in use for hundreds of years. A proverb is a short, common saying or phrase that may be a famous quote, an inspirational quote, an epigram or the topic of a parable. 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, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, 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 proverb waste not, want not, where the expression came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Waste not, want not is a proverb that exhorts someone to conserve his resources so they may be used at a later time. The idea is to not waste things today so they may be put to good use tomorrow. For instance, many countries have initiated laws that govern how much water a toilet uses when flushing and how much water a showerhead sprays at a time to save water consumption. The expression waste not, want not came into use in the 1770s, though an earlier version had been in use since the 1570s: willful waste makes woeful want.


Waste not, want not: Dutch students build electric car from recycled material (Jakarta Post)

“Waste not, want not” was planted firmly in John Dorgan’s ethos as a kid, watching his father pull nails out of old boards for reuse. (MSU Today)

Waste not, want not: Mariko Shinju’s Mottainai Grandma character teaches children how to avoid being wasteful and to be respectful of their environment. (Japan Times)

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