What Does “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” Mean?

Discover the meaning and usage of the idiom 'Once Bitten, Twice Shy,' conveying a person's reluctance to take risks after a negative experience. Learn its origin and synonyms.

Understanding the Idiom

Once bitten, twice shy is an idiom that means a person who has been hurt or had an unpleasant experience while trying to do something is careful, wary, and fearful about doing it again.

This idiom is used to express a person’s reluctance to take risks after a negative experience.

Definition and Meaning

The phrase “once bitten, twice shy” is a proverbial expression that conveys a simple message: a person who has been hurt or deceived once is likely to be more cautious in the future.

The idiom is often used to describe a person who is hesitant to try something new or take risks because of a past negative experience.

Origin and History

The origin of the idiom “once bitten, twice shy” can be traced back to the 16th century.

The phrase was first recorded in English in 1576 in a collection of proverbs by John Heywood.

However, the phrase became popular in the 19th century when the word “bite” was used to describe any unpleasant experience.

Is “Up the ante” a Similar Expression to “Once Bitten, Twice Shy”?

“Up the ante” and “once bitten, twice shy” are not similar expressions in meaning.

While the latter refers to being cautious after a negative experience, the meaning of “up the ante” is to increase the stakes or demands in a given situation.

Usage in Language

The idiom “once bitten, twice shy” is commonly used in everyday language to describe a person’s reluctance to try something again after a negative experience.

For example, “After getting food poisoning from sushi, she’s once bitten, twice shy about trying it again.” Another example is “He’s once bitten, twice shy about investing in the stock market after losing all his savings.”

Synonyms

  • Cautious approach
  • Wariness
  • Prudence

In summary, the idiom “once bitten, twice shy” is a proverbial expression that is used to describe a person’s reluctance to take risks or try something new after a negative experience.

It conveys the idea that people tend to be more cautious and wary after being hurt or deceived once.