'Make Hay While the Sun Shines': Definition, Meaning, Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on November 20, 2023

If anyone's ever told you to 'make hay while the sun shines,' you've probably wondered what it meant. And with good reason. But don't worry; in this article, you'll learn the meaning of this popular idiom, its origins, and how to use it in a sentence.

If you just want the short version, here it is:

  • To make hay while the sun shines means to take advantage of favorable conditions to accomplish something. 

What Does 'Make Hay While the Sun Shines' Mean?

This expression is an idiom, and the thing about idioms is you can't interpret them literally. We aren't talking about actual hay or any sort of farming practice here; there's a metaphorical meaning.

The phrase "make hay while the sun shines" is an idiom that means to take advantage of the favorable conditions or opportunities that are currently available. The underlying message is to be proactive and make use of the advantageous conditions while they last.

Imagine, for example, that you've been thinking about buying a house, and the mortgage interest rates have recently decreased to an all-time low. You might say:

I don't know how long the interest rates will stay this way; I'd better make hay while the sun shines and get on the proeperty ladder now.

You can change the verb form because there's a verb in this idiom ('make'), although this isn't as common.

For example:

Where Does 'Make Hay While the Sun Shines' Come From?

The idiom 'Make hay while the sun shines' has agricultural origins and is rooted in the practice of making hay. The expression dates back to medieval times, and its usage can be traced to farming communities where haymaking was a crucial part of agricultural life.

The literal meaning of the phrase is tied to the process of haymaking. Farmers would cut grass to make hay, but the success of this activity heavily depended on weather conditions. The cut grass needed to dry quickly to produce good-quality hay, and sunny weather was essential. Rain or damp conditions could ruin the hay, making it moldy or less nutritious for livestock.

As you can imagine, as soon as the sun showed its face, farmers would rush to the fields to 'make hay while the sun shines' since they didn't know how long the favorable weather would last.

In print, it first appeared in John Heywood's A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, a 1546 publication.

Examples in Sentences

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

As I mentioned, it can occasionally be used with different verb forms; I'll also show you examples, including the third-person singular, present participle, and past participle.

Recognizing the lucrative market conditions, the savvy entrepreneur makes hay while the sun shines by launching a new product line.

Realizing that her energy levels were high and motivation was strong, Emily decided to make hay while the sun shines and tackle all her pending tasks.

The team recognized the opportunity to secure a major client, and they were determined to make hay while the sun shines by presenting a compelling proposal.

Knowing that interest rates were low, the couple decided to make hay while the sun shines and buy their dream house before conditions changed.

The student understood the importance of focused study sessions during exam season, deciding to make hay while the sun shines and maximize his preparation.

The team is diligently working on their project, making hay while the sun shines, as they believe that the current favorable conditions in the industry won't last forever.

Seeing the beautiful weather forecast for the weekend, the family planned a spontaneous picnic, deciding to make hay while the sun shines.

Recognizing the potential for advancement, Sarah worked diligently on her projects, eager to make hay while the sun shines and impress her superiors.

The coach encouraged the team to push harder during the crucial game, emphasizing the need to make hay while the sun shines and secure their spot in the playoffs.

The wise investor made hay while the sun shines, selling his stocks at their peak value before the market took a downturn.

Other Ways to Say 'Make Hay While the Sun Shines'

There are plenty of other ways to tell someone to make the most of a situation. They're great to use if you're looking for alternative phrases. A lot of these are also idioms in their own right. The most common one you may already know is the famous Latin saying Carpe Diem, which means 'Seize the day.'

Here are a few more:

  • Strike while the iron is hot.
  • Make the most of an opportunity.
  • Make good use of your time/resources.
  • Catch the tide.
  • Time and tide wait for no man.
  • Make use of every opportunity.
  • Make the best of a situation.
  • Jump at the chance.
  • Grasp the opportunity.

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes this article about this popular idiom. To summarize, when someone tells you to 'make hay while the sun shines,' they're giving you good advice. They want to encourage you to make use of a good opportunity while you can.

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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