Wondering why make ends meet means to have enough money to live on. I am interested in knowing the origin of the idiom. Can anyone help me on this?
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I have found several versions of its origin: you get to choose! None is confirmed.
I would go with 1 or 2.
Credits to JaneB and Robert Priddy for original research. I verified all the references before posting.
The answer is google-able, in fact. In this piece, Michael Quinion says it might be from book-keeping, where the the sum at the end (bottom) of two columns must be tallied.
In any case the origin is not precisely known.
The OED's earliest citation is from the mid-seventeenth century:
This is a long response....and also under construction but I hope it is pointing in the right direction.
The question is "Wondering why make ends meet means to have enough money to live on."
I was wondering the exact same thing recently so I'd like to make a contribution to the discussion. It seems no one knows for definite — not even the great OED.
The answers so far refer to: (a) accounting — making the financial ends of the year meet [personally I don't get that one] (b)sailing ships — the ends of two ropes meeting, a rope that is deployed to safeguard the masts and that the survival of the ship may therefore depend on (c)economics — frugality leads to a smaller girth and the two ends of your belt would more easily fasten.
I googled "make ends meet"and I also looked at the site http://www.phrases.org.uk/ which entertained me with ECONOMICS FOR SAUSAGE MAKERS - [make ends meat]. That's a funny take for sure.
Etymology can be funny. And serious. Take "silly". That comes from an old Germanic word for "blessed". The link is innocent — now it kinda makes sense, no?
Anyway, there seems to me to be three types of etymology. 1. Scholarly etymology 2. Folk etymology 3. Spurious etymology.
On this site I'm guessing that people are only interested in No. 1. As am I. But scholarly etymology does not always yield concrete uncontroversial answers. Sometimes the historical documentation simply doesn't exist. Or maybe has not yet been uncovered. In such cases "origin unknown, many guesses" is apt.
So, here is my contribution. Each word in the phrase "make ends meet" has more that one meaning.
Make: OED records this many meanings....
Ends: OED records this many meanings....
"Meet": Meet, meat, mete.
Meet: OED records this many meanings....
Meat: OED records this many meanings....
Mete: OED records this many meanings....
I will come back to this with my research and findings within two days. I.e. before 5 September. Looking forward to comments of the civilized variety.
protected by RegDwigнt♦ Sep 2 '13 at 22:35
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