'Easier Said Than Done': Definition, Meaning, Examples

By Sophia Merton, updated on October 11, 2023

Did someone say that something is 'easier said than done,' and you’re wondering what it means? In this article, we’ll take a look at the meaning, origin, examples, and more.

  • 'Easier said than done' is a phrase that means something is simple to talk about but more difficult to actually accomplish.

What Does 'Easier Said Than Done' Mean?

If someone says that something is 'easier said than done,' it means they believe it is an idea that is easy to propose but actually difficult to accomplish.

To say this more simply, sometimes things are very easy to talk about but actually take a lot of hard work to do.

For example, maybe you and your friends are talking about what to do over the weekend. You might suggest that your best friend takes the day off from work so you can all go to the beach together. If they believe it will be difficult to get their boss to agree to the day off, they might say 'easier said than done.'

Where Does This Phrase Come From?

This idiom has been used in the English language for hundreds of years. One of the earliest examples of it in the text shows up in the 1483 book by Terentius Afer entitled Vulgaria Terentil.

The exact phrase appears this way in the text:

“It is easyer to saye than to do.”

It also shows up in an early book of proverbs by John Heywood in 1546. Though he used the phrase 'better said than done,' the implication and meaning were similar. Over time, the modern version of the phrase emerged. By the 19th century, 'easier said than done' was in common use.

The Idiom in Text

Using the Google Books Ngram Viewer, we can find examples of this idiom in texts starting in the year 1800.

We find our first example in a poetry book called Cypress Leaves, in a poem called 'Easier Said Than Done.'

"You bid me dry my tears, mother,

And feign a careless tone,

And think no more of another,

But it's easier said than done.

Have you ever been crossed yourself, mother,

And then have you ever known,

That to give the lie to fond memory

Is easier said than done?"

Another example appears in the book The Martyr Land by Mrs. E. Burrows from 1856:

"'Hush! Ernest, hush!' said Mrs. Grenville, 'as Charles observes, it was considerably easier said than done; for no sooner did the columns advance to a certain point, than they found themselves exposed to a raking fire from above; whilst they themselves, could as usual, do no harm whatever to their unseen opponents."

Examples of 'Easier Said Than Done' in Sentences

How would 'easier said than done' be used in a sentence? Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • "I know you really want to go to Europe next summer, but the truth is it's easier said than done."
  • "Finding a piece of jewelry your mother will actually like enough to wear is easier said than done."
  • "It's good to hear that you're excited about building your own house, but I hope you realize it's easier said than done."
  • "You're being naive if you think that you can just drive right into the city on a Friday night and expect to find parking within a mile of the restaurant. I'm telling you, it's easier said than done."
  • "Are you taking the bus to the conference center? I want to let you know that the public transportation here is really inconsistent-- getting where you want to go on time is easier said than done."

Final Thoughts About 'Easier Said Than Done'

'Easier said than done' is a useful phrase for describing the fact that it's sometimes easy to propose an idea but difficult to follow through and accomplish it.

Are you ready to learn more English phrases and expand your vocabulary? Be sure to check out our idioms blog for idioms, expressions, sayings, and more!

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Written By:
Sophia Merton
Sophia Merton is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Sophia received her BA from Vassar College. She is passionate about reading, writing, and the written word. Her goal is to help everyone, whether native English speaker or not, learn how to write and speak with perfect English.

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