Sounds like something a snake oil salesman on the wild west could come up with. Can the origins be traced?


In a transcript of a state trial from 1798:

What did you give it him for? Did he make use of it? Was it to protect his copper from being changed that you did it? — He was very officious to make things in a light easy way without much trouble, to make nis bread light. But I did it more in fun than profit.

This is clearly not the same phrase, but it seems to be more than an accidental use of those two words togather.

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    The origins are clearly very old, just wanted to note, that this got famous in recent computer culture through the article "Smashing the Stack for Fun and Profit" in Phrack Magazine #49 from 1996.
    – bfncs
    Commented Oct 7, 2015 at 13:27
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    @bfncs that's a pretty tenuous claim without evidence to back it up. There were several computer-related "for fun and profit" books published in the 1980s and early 1990s, and even more non-computer-related "for fun and profit" books published since the early 20th century. If the phrase was already famous in general culture as a component of the titles of "how-to" manuals, there would have been no need for a separate rise to fame in computer culture.
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 6:24

3 Answers 3


I don't know about the origins, but it is definitely not a recent expression. As the following examples found with Google Books indicate, the expression is used since the 19th century at least:

Pamphlets, Religious: Miscellaneous (1847)

It matters not if you call it a "fish pond" for fun and profit„or a five cent chance to get a quilt at a draw or a raffle given by a Ladies' Aid Society of Church, or the profits on editing a newspaper for one day, or running a railroad


The American Angler (1897)

I am now fixing up some trout ponds, a pet scheme of mine, in which I shall propagate trout for fun and profit. The law here is, that no one can sell trout in market unless from private ponds, and I shall of course be in the game.

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    what's the association with fish ponds, 50yrs apart
    – David
    Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 19:27

I found the phrase back to 1833 (check) in an English translation of a book by the French novelist Charles Paul de Kock called The Modern Cymon. Here, three characters have hatched a plan to simulate a two-headed man they hope others will pay to see:

"fun and profit" clip from Google Books


It seems a rough translation of Horace, Ars Poetica, "Prodesse et delectare".

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    Interesting. Could you please expand upon this a little. It would make the answer more credible.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 18:22
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    From DE Wikipedia (via Google Translate): "Prodesse et delectare ( Latin, "avail and enjoy ") is a motto of literature , especially in the 18th century./This should emphasize the Enlightenment aspect of the literature: books should be both entertaining and instructive for the reader. A typical example of such works are fables . / The saying derives from the Ars Poetica..." See examples of "profit and entertainment" like 1825 books.google.com/…" , 1745 books.google.com/…" ,etc
    – Jacob C.
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 17:11
  • 1
    – Jacob C.
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 17:12
  • The phrase "for fun and profit" definitely implies monetary profit specifically. "Prodesse et delectare" is a motto expressing the idea that literature should both instruct and entertain (where "instruction" here primarily means moral instruction/edification). I don't think it's really related to "for fun and profit" at all. "For fun and profit" suggests the idea of turning a hobby one engages in for personal pleasure into a (probably secondary) source of monetary income. Commented Aug 31, 2020 at 17:28

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