'Practice Makes Perfect': Definition, Meaning, Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on October 30, 2023

Have you ever heard the expression 'practice makes perfect?' Perhaps somebody said it to you while you were practicing something. But what does it mean? In this article, you'll learn the meaning of this popular idiom, its possible origins, and how to use it in a sentence.

If you're just here for the short version, read on:

  • 'Practice makes perfect' is an idiom used to express the fact that if you practice something a lot, you will become good at it. 

What Does 'Practice Makes Perfect' Mean?

This expression is an idiom, which is a group of words used to express a concept that only makes sense as a whole; the meaning can't be deciphered by looking at the terms separately.

  • Someone might say 'practice makes perfect' to remind another person that it's worthwhile continuing to practice something, to do it again and again, because this will help you become very good at it.
  • In fact, if you don't practice, chances are you will never get very good at something. 

Imagine, for example, that your son is learning how to play piano but is getting frustrated because he finds it very difficult and feels it is taking a long time to learn.

You might say to him:

Don't give up son, you will get it eventually. Practice makes perfect!

You might have noticed that this phrase doesn't exactly make sense. To be grammatically correct, it would need to be 'practice makes us perfect' or 'practice makes perfection.' Despite this, since it's an idiom, we need to use it as originally intended.

Where Does 'Practice Makes Perfect' Come From?

While the specific origin of the idiom "practice makes perfect" is challenging to pinpoint, its roots can be traced back to ancient times. The idea that repeated effort and practice lead to improvement has been a common theme in various cultures and philosophical traditions.

The Latin phrase "uses promptos facit," meaning "use makes ready," is often cited as a precursor to the modern English idiom. 'Use makes perfect' and 'use makes mastery' are two other commonly cited variants. This concept was embraced by ancient philosophers who recognized the value of repetition and practice in skill development.

In the English language, the expression "practice makes perfect" gained popularity in the 16th century. Some sources believe its earliest appearance in English was in Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, written sometime in the late 1700s.

He said:

I was too incautious, and unartful in my Proceeding, but Practice makes perfect.

Another variant appeared in 1860 when Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his Conduct of Life:

Practice is nine-tenths

It's important to note that the tracing of idioms and phrases can be challenging, and sometimes, attributions may not be accurate or well-documented. The idiom "practice makes perfect" is a common expression that has likely evolved over time through common usage rather than originating from a specific individual's writing.

Examples in Sentences

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

In learning a new language, remember that practice makes perfect, so try to speak it every day.

Her piano teacher always told her, "Practice makes perfect," encouraging hours of diligent rehearsal.

Don't worry if you make mistakes while learning to ride a bike; practice makes perfect.

The chef emphasized to his apprentices that although talent never hurts, practice is what makes perfect in the kitchen.

The young gymnast knew that practice makes perfect, so she spent extra hours perfecting her routine before the competition.

When it comes to public speaking, practice makes perfect; rehearse your speech multiple times to build confidence.

The artist believed that, in the world of painting, practice makes perfect, and each canvas is an opportunity to improve.

The math teacher advised the students to practice solving problems regularly, as practice makes perfect in mastering mathematical concepts.

Playing a musical instrument requires patience and persistence; remember that practice makes perfect.

Athletes understand that practice makes perfect, and they train rigorously to enhance their skills and performance.

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.

  • Repetition is the mother of skill.
  • The more you practice, the better you get.
  • Continuous effort leads to improvement.
  • You get better the more you try.
  • The key to perfection is practice.

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes this article about this popular idiom. To summarize, when you say, 'Practice makes perfect,' you are saying that to get really good at something, you must keep doing it. 

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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