'No Rest for the Wicked': Definition, Meaning, Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on October 26, 2023

Have you ever heard someone say, 'No rest for the wicked mean?' It's a peculiar expression but very common, so what does it mean? In this article, you'll learn the idiom's meaning and origins and how to use it in a sentence.

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

  • When you say, 'No rest for the wicked,' you're pointing out the fact that you have a lot of work to do and don't seem to get much rest these days.

What Does 'No Rest for the Wicked' Mean?

The adjective 'wicked' is a very old word that was used a lot in the Bible to refer to people who were morally wrong and badly behaved.

'No rest for the wicked' is an idiom, which means it shouldn't be interpreted literally. Sure, when people used this phrase in the beginning, they were referring to evil-doers and sinners, but now it can refer to anyone.

  • It is often used in a more lighthearted or humorous manner nowadays to describe the busyness or challenges you are facing. It communicates the fact that you have a lot of work to do and you can't stop even though you may be tired.

Imagine, for example, that your friend invites you to a party at their house on the weekend, but you're too busy, so you can't go.

You might say:

Darn, I wish I could but I have to work on an essay that's due on Monday. No rest for the wicked!

That doesn't mean you are a bad person; you have an essay because you are a student, not a sinner. So, as you can see, this idiom can be used for busyness and hard work in almost any context.

Where Does 'No Rest for the Wicked' Come From?

The origin of this phrase can be traced back to the Bible. The exact wording appears in the King James Version of the Bible in the book of Isaiah 48:22, which states:

There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.

The sentiment also appears in Isaiah 57:22:

But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.

This later evolved to become the modern version of the idiom that we use today, 'No rest for the wicked,' although the idea was that sinners and wrongdoers would suffer eternal damnation. It didn't take on its more humorous and less literal tone until at least the 1800s, when it started to be used to talk about the neverending nature of tasks and responsibilities.

It appeared as the title of a comic strip by Harold Gray in 1933, as part of the well-loved series known as Little Orphan Annie, which certainly helped propel its popularity.

Examples in Sentences

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

After finishing one project, my boss immediately assigned me another—no rest for the wicked, I suppose.

With three young kids, there's no rest for the wicked in our household; there's always something that needs attention.

The politician found himself embroiled in scandal after scandal; it seemed like there was no rest for the wicked in the world of politics.

As a detective, solving one case only led to another on his desk—no rest for the wicked in the crime-fighting business.

After burning the midnight oil to meet the deadline, she realized that in the fast-paced world of advertising, there truly is no rest for the wicked.

The ambitious entrepreneur believed in the mantra of "no rest for the wicked" as he tirelessly worked on expanding his business empire.

With exams, extracurricular activities, and part-time work, students often feel like there's no rest for the wicked during the academic year.

The superhero's duty was never-ending; he accepted that there would be no rest for the wicked in his quest to protect the city.

In the competitive world of sports, top athletes understand that there's no rest for the wicked if they want to nourish their talent and keep it alive.

The journalist juggled multiple assignments and tight deadlines, realizing that in the world of breaking news, there's no rest for the wicked.

Other Ways to Say 'No Rest for the Wicked'

There are other ways to say that the work never ends. They're great to use if you're looking for alternative phrases.

  • No rest for the weary.
  • All work and no play.
  • It doesn't rain; it pours.
  • I have to face the daily grind.

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes this article about this popular idiom. To summarize, when you say there's no rest for the wicked, you mean that there's a lot to do, and you haven't been able to have much rest or fun time. 

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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