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June 21, 2024

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“The devil makes work for idle hands” is an English proverb that has been passed down through generations. This saying carries a valuable lesson about the importance of keeping oneself busy and productive. In this article, we will explore the meaning of this proverb, its origins, and provide examples of how it can be used in everyday conversations.

The Meaning of the Proverb

The proverb “The devil makes work for idle hands” suggests that when people have too much free time on their hands and are not engaged in productive activities, they are more likely to engage in mischief, wrongdoing, or trouble. Essentially, it implies that idleness can lead to negative consequences. By staying busy and occupied with constructive tasks, individuals are less likely to find themselves in troublesome situations.

Origin of the Proverb

The exact origin of this proverb is unclear, but it is believed to have originated in England in the 16th or 17th century. It might have been influenced by similar sayings in various cultures, emphasizing the importance of staying busy and avoiding idleness.

Examples in Everyday Conversation

  1. Parental Advice: A common context in which you might hear this proverb is from parents advising their children. For instance, a parent might say, “You should find a hobby or join a club after school; you know what they say, ‘The devil makes work for idle hands.'”
  2. Workplace Productivity: In a workplace setting, supervisors or managers may use this proverb to encourage employees to stay focused and productive. They might say, “Remember, team, we need to meet our deadlines. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”
  3. Friend’s Concern: When a friend is concerned about another friend who seems to have too much free time and is making questionable choices, they might say, “I’m worried about Sarah. She’s been partying a lot lately and not doing much else. You know what they say, ‘The devil makes work for idle hands.'”
  4. Educational Setting: Teachers and educators may also use this proverb to motivate students to study and avoid procrastination. For instance, a teacher might say, “Don’t wait until the last minute to start your assignments. Remember, ‘The devil makes work for idle hands.'”
  5. Self-Motivation: Individuals can also use this proverb as a self-motivation tool to stay productive and make the most of their time. When setting goals, someone might say, “I want to stay busy and focused on my goals because I know that ‘The devil makes work for idle hands.'”


“The devil makes work for idle hands” is a timeless proverb that reminds us of the importance of staying active and engaged in positive activities. By avoiding idleness and keeping ourselves occupied with meaningful work, we reduce the likelihood of getting into trouble or making poor choices. This saying serves as a valuable lesson for individuals of all ages, emphasizing the benefits of productivity and responsibility. So, the next time you find yourself with free time, consider using it wisely, for, as the proverb suggests, idle hands may lead to undesirable outcomes.

Song: Idle Hands


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