Is there an idiom for someone who gets what he deserved? Like someone receiving punishment for his evil deeds or someone getting awarded for his good deeds?

  • 15
    "He got what he deserved"
    – Oldcat
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 17:58
  • He got served.
    – MDMoore313
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 21:05
  • @BigHomie No, that refers to process service, which is often undeserved. Commented May 22, 2014 at 1:42

12 Answers 12


I think the most common phrase I hear that works for good and bad is karma (is a bitch/beauty).

(in Hinduism and Buddhism) the sum of a person's actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences.

A common set of idioms to reflect the results of bad/good karma.

  • 1
    Hello, thank you for putting that much though into it, but being a hindu myself, I absolutely despise the theory of karma, its an air baked theory with no facts to back it up. Karma means that there is someone who decides your future depending upon your past deeds; What I wanted to ask was "What someone gets after performing a certain task in return"
    – user76468
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 17:28
  • @user76468 - added two common idioms. Commented May 19, 2014 at 17:32
  • 1
    I like the last two ones, the 2nd one is similar to an idiom in my vernacular language and 3rd one is very catchy, +1 for it but I'd still wait for few more suggestions before declaring it as "correct" :D
    – user76468
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 17:38
  • 4
    @user76468 - always give it a day before declaring a right answer on here. Might find one better than mine but you reap what you sow is pretty spot on. Commented May 19, 2014 at 17:39
  • Off-topic but I looked up "air baked" and "airbaked" but could not find a definition, and yet, I understand what user76468 meant. Is it slang? Is it neologistic? Did he mean something similar? In Italian we have "campata in aria" which means something, an idea without substance.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 5:33

Just deserts : When a bad or evil person gets their just deserts, they get the punishment or suffer the misfortune that it is felt they deserve.

If you fly with the crows, you get shot with the crows If you wish to be associated with a particular high risk and/or high profile situation and benefit from the rewards of that association, you have to accept the consequences if things go wrong - you cannot dissociate yourself.

  • this only works for bad things, not good. Commented May 19, 2014 at 17:35
  • 2
    Actually it works with good things also but mostly associated with bad things. There is "Just rewards" versions which is more associated with good things. You may mention this one too and include sources. They are used interchangeably.
    – ermanen
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 17:49
  • @ RyeɃreḁd "Like someone receiving punishment for his evil deeds or someone getting awarded for his good deeds?" Regardless, User76468 did not specify 'and'
    – Third News
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 17:50
  • Well, what I meant by using 'or' was general usage phrases or neutral phrases that works for both, like his "reap..sow" one can be used in both cases.. BUt since your example includes desserts(usually sweet) can't it also be associated with good things just like "Getting fruits(sweet) in exchange for someone's deeds"?
    – user76468
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 17:55
  • 2
    Just to add to the answer: it's spelled correctly in the answer, but someone may try to correct you because it's pronounced the same way as the sweet treat at the end of a meal (desserts), yet spelled the same as the dry expanse of land (deserts). However, it's an archaic word meaning "deserved reward or punishment".
    – Fadecomic
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 20:57

Consider Get what's coming to one and have it coming.

What's coming to one: what one deserves (typically get/have what's coming to one; give one what's coming): If you cheat, you'll get in trouble. You'll get what's coming to you; They gave Billy what was coming to him.

Have it coming: to deserve something : We worked so hard to make the business succeed that I think we have it coming; The jury felt the guy had it coming, so they didn't convict her of attacking him.

  • Other expressions are:

Whosoever sows the wind shall (or will) reap the whirlwind.

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Payback time.

Also, here is a nonexhaustive list of related phrases you might want to consider.

  • 2
    And the related, informal, comeuppance.
    – Useless
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 17:48

"The chickens have come home to roost" applies primarily when a person deserved bad results and got them, though on rare occasions it has been used to describe situations where a person has deserved good results and got them. In general, however, it indicates undesirable consequences returning on a person for prior misdeeds or delinquency.

Note: In my original answer I asserted that the phrase "applies whether the person deserved good results and got them or deserved bad results and got them." After further research, I am now convinced that this wording misrepresents the weight of actual usage of the phrase. See Can "the chickens have come home to roost" have positive as well as negative connotations?.

  • Hi, can you try to to include its usage within an example? It would be more clear that way.. I mean its very clear but how do I use it in sentences?
    – user76468
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 17:36
  • Yes. Here are two people (A and B) discussing a third person (C). Person A: "C has been cutting corners on his tax returns for years." Person B: "Well the chickens have come home to roost now: The IRS is auditing him."
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 17:40
  • I don't think I've ever heard that idiom used in a good context.
    – royhowie
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 2:41
  • @Luxelin: I did some further research on the phrase, and you are correct that it rarely comes up in a positive or neutral context. I am rewriting my answer to reflect this reality—and I also plan to post a discussion of the phrase as a separate question (with answer).
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 19:27

Poetic Justice might suit, although it does tend to imply a healthy dose of irony in addition to simply getting what you deserve.

  • +1 for noticing that it implies irony.
    – BanksySan
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 18:16

Two terms for "what [x] deserves" are Just deserts and Comeuppance.

Although the latter isn't technically an idiom, since it is a single word, they both mean precisely the idea you're looking to convey about a person, save for denoting the subject. Also, the former can refer to a positive outcome, while the latter cannot.


I've heard "Hoisted on his own petard" for a bad outcome: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petard#.22Hoist_with_his_own_petard.22

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    Hoist with or by one's own petard, perhaps. Being hoist on one's own petard suggests an unconventional interpretation of 'riding the bomb'. Commented May 20, 2014 at 1:48
  • The modern meaning of this is blown up by his own mine. This comes from Hamlet: "'tis the sport to have the enginer hoist with his own petard."
    – BobRodes
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 0:49

Most sayings about this have negative connotations and are primarily used when someone does ill and ill results. The one common saying I can think of that is good/bad neutral is the Biblical "You reap what you sow" based on Galatians 6: 7-8:

7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Many parents hereabouts admonish their teenagers with that adage fairly regularly.


One sometimes hears the impersonal saying, "Actions have consequences" -- an accurate but rather unenlightening observation. There also exists the old proverb, "Lie down with the dogs and you will rise with fleas".

To change the subject slightly, I'm with user76468 in deprecating the notion of karma as a sort of cosmic reward or punishment for past actions. To my mind, it's of a piece with that other vacuous trope of wishful thinking, "Everything happens for a reason".

In fact, there is in perpetual circulation on the internet a bunch of trite and irritating bromides that bespeak a slavish and idiotic mindset. Unfortunately, the emergence and evolution of the Web has rendered these excrescences of half-baked thinking immortal (or at least incapable of extinction), especially in the United States, where cultural backwardness and scientific and factual ignorance are widespread in the population (this site being one of the honourable exceptions).

Some of this contemptible claptrap takes the form of free-floating all-purpose fatalistic platitudes, while most of the rest is usually heard after someone dies, or following a greater or lesser misfortune of some other kind. For example:

"It must be Fate".

"It's {Destiny / Providence / the hand of the Almighty}".

"It {was / wasn't} meant to be".

"{We / you / they} {were / weren't} meant for each other".

"Ours is not to reason why".

"It's not for the likes of us to question the ways of the Almighty".

"It {was / must have been} God's will".

"God works in mysterious ways".

"It's (all) for the best".

"You'll be OK".

"Everything will be all right".

"It's the Universe telling us to [do X]".

"God doesn't give us more than we can handle".

"What will be, will be".

"No-one can know the mind of God".

"The ways of the Lord are mysterious indeed".

"It was bound to happen {someday / eventually}".

"It's all part of a greater plan".

"{He / she} {is at peace / is in a better place / is with God / has gone to live with the Lord}".

Presumably, those who accept this kind of delusional or self-deluding nonsense at face value are also those who are most likely to believe in astrology / tarot / fortune-telling / lucky numbers / crystal divination / supernatural deities / any of the other manifestations of superstitious belief or New Age mumbo-jumbo.

  • @BobRodes - Thank you, Bob. Glad you enjoyed reading it. :-)
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 0:58
  • This is a well-written piece, as diatribes go. I only have one difference of opinion with it, really. I believe that everything happens for a reason (although I can't say what the reason is), and I don't find that to be evidence that I have an idiotic mindset. In fact, I don't find it an example of wishful thinking, either. I sometimes wish there weren't a reason for the things that I see.
    – BobRodes
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 0:58
  • @BobRodes - When you analyse it, the expression 'Everything happens for a reason' is ambiguous. It can mean either: 1) Everything has a cause, or 2) Everything that happens is part of some greater plan. I have no problem with interpretation 1); it is the espousal by others of interpretation 2) that I find perverse and vexing.
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 1:05
  • Fair enough. Since we don't really have any plans that some other plan can be greater than, I wouldn't be able to espouse that view either.
    – BobRodes
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 3:49

If he has to (deservedly) suffer the consequences of his previous laziness or reckless actions, I would say

He's made his bed, and so he has to lie in it.


Such a person is said to have got a delivery from the "Karma Wagon."

Oh the Karma Wagon is a-comin' down the street, 
Oh please don't let it be for me!

Serve sb right - If you say that something bad serves someone right, you mean that that person deserves it.


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