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The idiom “having bigger fish to fry” is a phrase often used in both casual and professional conversations. It suggests that someone has more important or pressing matters to attend to than the current situation or task at hand. But what does it truly mean when someone uses this expression, and how can we interpret it in different contexts? In this article, we’ll explore the meaning behind “having bigger fish to fry” and its implications in various situations.

Origin of the Idiom

The idiom “having bigger fish to fry” has its roots in the world of fishing. In this context, “frying” doesn’t refer to cooking but rather to catching fish. When a fisherman has a large catch of fish to fry, it implies that they are engaged in a significant and potentially more rewarding endeavor than dealing with smaller catches.

  1. Prioritizing Tasks

One common use of this phrase is in the workplace or when discussing tasks and responsibilities. If someone says, “I have bigger fish to fry,” they are essentially conveying that they have more important or pressing tasks that require their attention. It suggests that the current matter, while not unimportant, ranks lower in their list of priorities.

For example, a manager might say, “I can’t address this minor issue right now; I have bigger fish to fry,” indicating that they are dealing with more critical matters that demand immediate focus.

  1. Dealing with Personal Issues

Beyond the workplace, this idiom can also be used in personal contexts. When someone has personal challenges, such as health concerns, family emergencies, or financial issues, they may use this expression to convey that their current situation is overshadowed by more significant and pressing personal matters.

In this case, saying “I have bigger fish to fry” is a way of asking for understanding and patience from others, as they navigate through more challenging circumstances.

  1. Managing Time and Resources

Another interpretation of the idiom relates to time and resource management. It suggests that individuals should allocate their time and resources wisely, focusing on tasks and endeavors that will yield the most significant results or benefits.

In this sense, “having bigger fish to fry” encourages efficiency and effective prioritization. It reminds us to concentrate our efforts where they will make the most substantial impact.


The expression “having bigger fish to fry” carries the idea of prioritization, emphasizing that there are more important or pressing matters at hand. It serves as a reminder to evaluate the significance of various tasks, responsibilities, or situations and allocate one’s time and resources accordingly.

Whether used in a professional setting, to communicate personal challenges, or as a reminder of efficient resource management, this idiom underscores the importance of recognizing what truly matters and focusing on those “bigger fish” that require our attention and effort.


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