Announcing our Top 20 Books of 2022 and Award Winners

Why do we say "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush"?

Well-Known Expressions

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

Meaning:

It's better to possess something tangible now than to hold out for something potentially better in the future.

Background:

In English, variations on this proverb have been traced back to the mid 15th century. The first known use being in The Life of St Katherine by J Capgrave (1450):

"It is more sekyr a byrd in your fest, Than to haue three in the sky a-boue."

But earlier usage can be found in Latin dating back to at least the 13th century: Plus valet in manibus avis unica quam dupla silvis ('a bird in the hands is worth more than two in the woods'); and The Phrase Finder points to the 7th century Aramaic Story of Ahikar which includes the sentiment (translated into modern English): "Better is a sparrow held tight in the hand than a thousand birds flying about in the air."

While lacking references to birds, there are earlier proverbs that caution against abandoning what you have for what you don't, such as a line in Plutarch's Moralia that translates "He is a fool who leaves things close at hand to follow what is out of reach."

Plutarch (c. AD 46 - c. 120) was a Roman citizen of Greek origin who is remembered today primarily for his two surviving works: Parallel Lives, a series of 48 paired biographies of famous men, one Greek and one Roman, who followed similar paths, such as Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, and Demetrius and Mark Anthony; and Moralia, a collection of 78 essays and speeches.

Alphabetical list of expressions

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Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: Horse
    Horse
    by Geraldine Brooks
    Voted 2022 Best Fiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers. Geraldine Brooks creates a ...
  • Book Jacket: In Love
    In Love
    by Amy Bloom
    Voted 2022 Best Nonfiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers. In 2019, author Amy Bloom and her...
  • Book Jacket: Remarkably Bright Creatures
    Remarkably Bright Creatures
    by Shelby Van Pelt
    Voted 2022 Best Debut Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers. Shelby Van Pelt's debut novel, ...

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    Scatterlings
    by Resoketswe Martha Manenzhe

    The debut novel of a gifted storyteller who has become a sensation in her native South Africa.

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Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Cradles of the Reich
by Jennifer Coburn
Three women, a nation seduced by a madman, and the Nazi breeding program to create a so-called master race.
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You can lead a man to Congress, but you can't make him think.

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