words to live by

I'm trying to get what the mentioned phrase really denotes. For instance, I have googled it and got only the results of many philosophical texts, not relevant to the phrase I expected.

  • 2
    Words that express a philosophical or religious principle which you can use to guide your actions in life. Oct 27, 2017 at 8:06
  • 1
    If I search Google for the exact sentence in your question title, the first result I get is an entry from The Free Dictionary that defines the phrase. Please clarify what you don't understand. Oct 27, 2017 at 9:49
  • So if John says "He who hesitates is lost," and Susan respond "Those are words to live by," she means that it would be wise to live without hesitating; living by those words ("He who hesitates is lost") would be a good decision.
    – Chaim
    Oct 27, 2017 at 11:58
  • Pretty much. But in saying that, one has to be a bit careful. It's a cliche, and because of that, it has lost its meaning – for not all instances, but many.
    – Livrecache
    Oct 27, 2017 at 12:10
  • @Clare - When I Google "words to live by" (with or without the quotes) I don't see your reference on the first page of "hits". I have to add "meaning" or "idiom" to the phrase to get there.
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 27, 2017 at 12:16

1 Answer 1


Matthew 4:4 says,

Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of god.

Whether I believe this passage is another matter, but this Bible verse clearly demonstrates the meaning of the the phrase "live by words" or "words to live by".

I am very self-persuasive that this verse is totally sufficient as an answer, but I guess a needlessly longer answer would stave off any downvotes against short answers ...

  • We are required to live by the corporate code of conduct. That is, at every turn of carrying and fulfilling our tasks, and even outside of work, we have be highly vigilant against discrimination of all sorts as known employees of the corporation. We have to live our lives in a fashion that we do not leak any sensitive information that would jeopardize the privacy and privileges of our customers.

  • I am addicted to computer games. I live and breath by the strategies I developed and used in my playing computer games. Frequently, I would respond to conversations from phrases enunciated by characters in computer games.

  • From now until he is elected President, you shall live by and breathe Trump. Every lie and concocted truth you tell will be for the sake of Trump.

  • These snacks are powerful. I live by them. I swear by them. Whenever I get nervous, I simply pop a handful into my mouth to calm me down. Whenever I have too much time on my hands, or when I am impatiently waiting, having a bunch of them simply infuses new life into my life. I live by and for these snacks.

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