What does “strike while the iron is hot” mean?

Learn the meaning, origin, and modern usage of this idiom, and how to take advantage of opportunities before they slip away. Carpe diem!

Understanding the Idiom

“Strike while the iron is hot” is an English idiom that means to take advantage of an opportunity while it is still available.

It implies that one should act quickly before the chance is lost.

Here are three brief definitions of the idiom:

  1. To act decisively while the time is right
  2. To take advantage of a favorable situation while it lasts
  3. To seize an opportunity while it is still available

Here are three example sentences that use the idiom:

  1. “I know you’re busy, but you should really strike while the iron is hot and apply for that job before the deadline.”
  2. “The stock market is booming right now, so it’s a good time to strike while the iron is hot and invest in some companies.”
  3. “The competition is tough, but if we strike while the iron is hot and release our product before our competitors, we might have a chance.”

Origins and History

The origin of the idiom can be traced back to ancient times when blacksmiths would heat iron until it was malleable and then shape it into various objects.

If they waited too long, the iron would cool and harden, making it impossible to work with.

The expression is recorded in Richard Edwards’ play “The Excellent Comedie of Two the Moste Faithfullest Freendes, Damon and Pithias” from the 16th century.

Literal Meaning

The literal meaning of the idiom is to strike (hit) the iron while it is hot, meaning to shape or work with the iron while it is still malleable and easy to work with.

The phrase is a metaphor for taking advantage of an opportunity while it is still available and before it becomes difficult or impossible to act.

Can you explain the meaning of the phrase “strike while the iron is hot”?

“Strike while the iron is hot” is an old phrase that means to take advantage of the opportunity at the right moment.

It suggests that action should be taken when the circumstances are most favorable.

This expression has been around for centuries and its meaning has struck a chord with many people.

Modern Usage

Today, the idiom is used in a variety of contexts to encourage people to act quickly and decisively when they have the chance.

It is often used in business and finance to encourage people to invest or take advantage of market conditions.

Three synonyms for the idiom are:

  1. Carpe diem
  2. Seize the day
  3. Make hay while the sun shines

In Dutch, the equivalent phrase is “Het ijzer smeden als het heet is,” which translates to “Forge the iron while it’s hot.”