The meaning of, and background to, the well-known expression "A stitch in time saves nine.

Well-Known Expressions

A stitch in time saves nine

Meaning:

Deal with a problem when it first appears and you'll save yourself a lot of time and/or money later.

Background:

This proverb is first cited in English in Gnomologia: Adagies and Proverbs Collected by Thomas Fuller (1732)

Some say that the term originates at sea which seems to make sense as a quick stitch to a sail that is coming apart will certainly save a lot of trouble later; and many sources suggest that "nine" was added later for rhyming purposes (Thomas Fuller quotes it as "may save nine")

However, a few suggest a more macabre source of the phrase saying that it took 9 pounds of shot to weigh down the body sack of a person being buried at sea, and the last stitch was made through a body part, partly to keep the shroud and body together and partly so that if the person wasn't actually dead and woke as a result of being pierced through the skin with a large needle, nine pounds of shot would not be wasted!

The first explanation seems to make more sense to us. While it is true that when sewing up a shroud on a ship the last stitch was often made through the nose, there doesn't appear to be any record of a fixed amount of weight being associated with a burial at sea.

Alphabetical list of expressions

Challenge yourself with BookBrowse Wordplays

Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Promise
    The Promise
    by Ann Weisgarber
    Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame, once wrote that "...all things ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Moon
    Black Moon
    by Kenneth Calhoun
    The popularity of book-turned-movie World War Z and television series The Walking Dead points to a ...
  • Book Jacket: Hyde
    Hyde
    by Daniel Levine
    In Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story ends ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Steady Running of the Hour

The Steady Running of the Hour

"Exciting, emotionally engaging and ambitious. I loved it!" - Kate Mosse

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I T T O A Eye

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.