All’s Fair in Love and War

The idiom "all's fair in love and war" means that in certain situations like love or war, people can behave in ways that are usually considered unacceptable.

All’s Fair in Love and War: Meaning and Definitions

  • The idiom “all’s fair in love and war” suggests that in certain situations, people are permitted to behave in ways that would normally be considered unacceptable.
  • It is often used to justify questionable behavior when one is pursuing the person they love or during a conflict.
  • This phrase implies that rules are suspended under special circumstances, such as love or war.
  • It might also suggest the idea of moral relativism in extreme circumstances.
  • Furthermore, it conveys the notion that people in love or in war are often forgiven for their actions.

All’s Fair in Love and War Synonyms

  1. Anything goes
  2. No holds barred
  3. The end justifies the means

Example Sentences

  • He lied to win her over, but as they say, all’s fair in love and war.
  • During the fierce competition between the two companies, they adhered to the philosophy that all’s fair in love and war.
  • She didn’t feel guilty about using underhanded tactics to get the promotion; after all, all’s fair in love and war.
  • He used every trick in the book to secure the deal, living by the adage all’s fair in love and war.
  • While some criticized her aggressive strategy in the game, she simply said, all’s fair in love and war.

The Origins and Etymology of All is Fair in Love and War

The idiom “all’s fair in love and war” has been in use since the late 16th century, with the earliest known version of this phrase appearing in John Lyly’s novel ‘Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit’ published in 1578.

The modern version of the saying became popular in the 19th century.

You can read more about it on Wiktionary.

“All’s Fair in Love and War” in Literature

The phrase “all’s fair in love and war” is used quite commonly in literature.

One notable example is in Frank Farleigh by Francis Edward Smedley where he writes, “Yes, yes,” said Frank, with a sigh, “I know that; all is fair in love and war.”

douglas heingartner editor saywhatyo!
Douglas Heingartner

Douglas Heingartner, the editor of SayWhatYo!, is a journalist based in Amsterdam. He has written about science, technology, and more for publications including The New York Times, The Economist, Wired, the BBC, The Washington Post, New Scientist, The Associated Press, IEEE Spectrum, Quartz, The Village Voice, The Los Angeles Times, Frieze, and others. His Google Scholar profile is here, his LinkedIn profile is here, and his Muck Rack profile is here.