'Let the Chips Fall Where They May': Definition, Meaning, Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on November 9, 2023

If you've ever heard the expression 'Let the chips fall where they may,' you might have wondered what it means. After all, it sounds a bit odd, doesn't it? What chips? And why are they falling? Don't worry; in this article, you'll learn the meaning behind this popular idiom, its possible origins, and how to use it in a sentence.

But maybe you're just here for the short version; you just want to know what it means and be on your merry way. If that's the case, here's what you need to know:

  • To 'let the chips fall where they may' means focusing on the task at hand and not worrying too much about what might happen.

What Does 'Let the Chips Fall Where They May' Mean?

This phrase is an idiom, and the thing you should know about idioms is that they shouldn't be interpreted literally. You might understand the words, but the sentence's meaning is metaphorical.

To tell someone to 'let the chips fall where they may' is to recommend that they accept the outcome of a situation without trying to control or influence it. It expresses a willingness to face the consequences, whatever they may be, and to deal with the results, whether positive or negative, without interference.

  • This isn't to say that you should act recklessly and not worry about the consequences of your actions.
  • Instead, the idea is that you can't control everything, so just focus on what you can control and don't worry about the rest.

Imagine, for instance, that you're considering making an investment that could be really good for your business but also very risky.

Your friend might say to you:

Yes, this could go badly, but sometimes in business you have to take risks, and just let the chips fall where they may. 

When used on its own, 'Let the chips fall where they may' is in the imperative mood, which allows you to give a command, and it's also why the sentence doesn't mention the subject, which is 'you' and is implied. But you can also use it in a non-imperative way to talk about someone else, in which case you would need to include the pronoun.

For example:

  • he lets the chips fall where they may  
  • they let the chips fall where they may
  • I let the chips fall where they may

You can also change the verb form depending on the sentence's tense.

For example:

Where Does 'Let the Chips Fall Where They May' Come From?

The origin of the expression "let the chips fall where they may" is not definitively documented, but we're going to take a look at the two most significant theories.

Gambling and Card Games

The origin of the idiom "let the chips fall where they may" in the context of gambling or card games is not precisely documented, but it likely comes from the practice of using chips as a form of currency in such games.

In various card games, players use chips to represent money or value. When a player decides to let the chips fall where they may, it means they are allowing events to unfold without intervention or manipulation. This could happen when a player chooses not to make further bets or raise the stakes in poker, for example. The phrase conveys a sense of accepting the outcome, whether it leads to a loss or a win.

Woodcutting or Carpentry

While the phrase "let the chips fall where they may" is often associated with gambling and card games, there is a theory that suggests an alternative origin related to woodcutting or carpentry. The theory posits that the expression might have its roots in the practice of chopping wood and the chips that result from this activity.

In this context, when a woodcutter is chopping wood, chips or splinters of wood fall to the ground. The idea is that the woodcutter, having done the chopping, allows the chips to fall where they naturally land without trying to control their trajectory. By extension, the phrase could be used metaphorically to express a similar idea in various situations, indicating a willingness to accept the consequences or outcomes without attempting to control them.

Appearance in the Written Format

The idiom "let the chips fall where they may" started to appear in written formats in the mid-19th century. However, it's important to note that tracking the precise moment an idiom first appears in written form can be challenging, as idiomatic expressions often evolve gradually through oral communication before being documented in writing.

The earliest known written instances of the phrase can be found in newspapers and literary works from the mid-1800s. Roscoe Conkling famously said in 1880:

He will hew to the line of right, let the chips fall where they may.

Examples in Sentences

Now that we've covered the meaning of this idiom and its origins, here are some example sentences that use it.

I'll include examples that use different pronouns and verb tenses, including the third-person singular, present participle, and present perfect.

In business negotiations, it's essential to make decisions boldly and let the chips fall where they may.

Catherine, let the chips fall where they may. Haven't you learned anything from last time?

In facing the controversy, the CEO bravely lets the chips fall where they may, trusting that transparency will ultimately benefit the organization.

After facing a challenging decision, Jack and his team have let the chips fall where they may, trusting that their good intentions will lead to positive outcomes in the long run.

After expressing her honest opinions, she was ready to let the chips fall where they may in the discussion.

The politician chose to be transparent about the controversial decision and let the chips fall where they may.

Sometimes in relationships, it's necessary to have difficult conversations and let the chips fall where they may.

The coach encouraged the team to play their best and let the chips fall where they may in the championship game.

After much deliberation, Sarah decided to be honest with her colleagues, letting the chips fall where they may.

The scientist conducted the experiment meticulously, ready to let the chips fall where they may in terms of the results. 

Other Ways to Say 'Let the Chips Fall Where They May'

There are plenty of other ways to tell someone to allow the situation to unfold as it may. They're great to use if you're looking for alternative phrases.

Here are some of them:

  • Accept the consequences.
  • Embrace the outcome.
  • Let the dice fall where they may.
  • Take things as they come.
  • Go with the flow.
  • Accept whatever happens.
  • Let nature take its course.
  • Leave it to fate.
  • Trust the process.

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes this article about this popular idiom. To summarize, when someone tells you to 'let the chips fall where they may,' they just want to help. They want you to see that you can't always control the outcome, so you should try to accept whatever happens.

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

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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