‘Early Bird Gets the Worm’: Definition, Meaning and Examples

By Shanea Patterson, updated on April 4, 2023

Have you heard someone say the ‘early bird gets the worm’ and wondered what it meant? Below, we’ll go over the definition and origin, plus provide examples of how to use it in a sentence correctly.

In short:

  • ‘Early bird gets the worm’ means that if you get up early enough, you’ll have more of an advantage over others.

Essentially, it means that if you get up early and do what you need to do before other people, you’ll be in a better position to succeed.

What Does ‘Early Bird Gets the Worm’ Mean?

‘Early bird gets the worm’ is a common English phrase that means that if you do something immediately or quickly or before other people, you’ll have the upper hand or the advantage. People use it when they’re trying to convince you to get up early in the morning or to get something done right away.

You might hear someone say it to their child. You might also hear someone say it in normal conversation with a friend as a way to say they’re planning on getting a head start on something.

In Season 8, episode one of Shameless, as Fiona sees her brother, Lip, walking out of the house unusually early, she says:

‘Early bird catches the worm?’

She’s implying that Lip usually isn’t one to wake up early for anything and that he might be making a change and ‘catching the worm early’ for once.

  • The idea behind this phrase is that the birds that wake up the earliest have the best chance of catching a good meal because the other birds are likely still asleep.

An alternative way to say the phrase is ‘early bird catches the worm.’

Where Does ‘Early Bird Gets the Worm’ Come From? 

The phrase ‘early bird gets the worm’ comes from a book published in 1670 called A Collection of English Proverbs by John Ray.

It reads:

The early bird catcheth the worm.

Other sources say that the phrase first appeared in a book in 1605 by William Camden.

These days, we’ve incorporated the ‘early bird’ into our everyday culture. That’s why you see early bird specials’ at restaurants designed to get elderly people into restaurants early (because they tend to eat dinner earlier than others).

Examples of ‘Early Bird Gets the Worm’ in Sentences 

How would you use ‘early bird gets the worm’ in a sentence? 

Let’s see some examples: 

  • My mom always says, ‘Early bird catches the worm’ when she wants me to go to bed. It’s usually because I have a big test in the morning or something like that. I love my mom.
  • There’s a saying my grandpa always used to say to me. He’d say, ‘Early bird gets the worm, John.’ And he’d always be up at the crack of dawn ready to work with a smile on his face.
  • The lady from the organization I joined loves to say, ‘Early bird gets the worm’ when she’s talking about an event we have to be at really early. It’s her way of motivating us, I guess, and it comes from a good place.
  • I’m not the biggest fan of getting up early, but my fiancé always says, ‘Early bird gets the worm,’ but I told him he’s barking up the wrong tree. I’ll sleep late till the day I die.
  • In my kindergarten classroom, I have a poster hanging up that says, ‘Early bird gets the worm.’ It has a picture of a worm coming out of an apple. My students think it’s so cute.
  • When I realized one of my students was in the classroom before I was, I asked, ‘What are you doing?’ He responded, ‘Early bird gets the worm.’ It was a little creepy, but I tried to ignore it.
  • You and I are the only ones here. I guess we’re the only ones who know that the early bird gets the worm. More snacks for us!
  • When my advisor told me that I needed to try to be on time for my classes from now on, I told her, ‘Yeah, the early bird gets the worm, so I’ll try harder to be on time.’ She’s pretty pleased with me at this point.

Other Ways to Say ‘Early Bird Gets the Worm’

What other words and phrases convey the same meaning as ‘early bird gets the worm’?

Let’s see some examples:

  • First come, first served
  • Wake up early, and you’ll succeed
  • The earlier, the better
  • The most successful ones get up early
  • The earlier you get there, the better your chances
  • Success is for first-comers
  • You snooze, you lose
  • Don’t be a day late and a dollar short
  • Early to bed, early to rise
  • People who get up early achieve more
  • Opportunity knocks once
  • Wake up early, and you’ll find success
  • Success is for early birds
  • Act fast
  • Don’t be slow
  • Don’t delay 

Final Thoughts on ‘Early Bird Gets the Worm’

To recap, we learned the following:

  • ‘Early bird gets the worm’ means that if you get up early enough, you’ll have more of an advantage over others. 

Essentially, it means that if you get up early and do what you need to do before other people, you’ll be in a better position to succeed.

If you ever get stuck on anything, feel free to come back to review what you learned. We’ve got a whole library of content on idioms that you might find useful as you’re learning the language. Go check it out anytime.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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