‘Slow and Steady Wins the Race’: Definition, Meaning, and Examples

By Sophia Merton, updated on January 27, 2023

What does it mean when someone says, ‘slow and steady wins the race’? Where does this phrase come from?

‘Slow and steady wins the race’ is a proverb that stems from Aesop’s Fable known as The Tortoise and the Hare.

It means that working too quickly can lead you to make mistakes and fail, while patient, persistent work will allow you to conquer any problem eventually.

What Does 'Slow and Steady Wins the Race' Mean?

‘Slow and steady wins the race’ is a proverb that means that you will be more successful if you work slowly and constantly rather than working quickly for a short period of time. Essentially, the idea is that it is more important to be persistent than to have speed.

This proverb argues proposes that rushing to achieve something or get somewhere will actually end up proving unreliable or unsustainable. Additionally, working too quickly in order to reach an end can result in mistakes that leave a person less successful overall. On the other hand, working diligently, consistently, and persistently, even if not particularly quickly, can produce better results in the end.

If this all seems a bit wordy, here’s a more succinct way to put it: “Patient work will conquer any problem eventually.”

Where Does 'Slow and Steady Wins the Race' Come From?

The proverb ‘slow and steady wins the race’ comes from one of Aesop’s Fables, The Tortoise and the Hare.

Aesop’s Fables (also known as the Aesopica) is a collection of fables that is credited to a storyteller and slave known as Aesop. Living in Greece between 620 and 564 BC, there are only scattered details of Aesop’s life, and his existence remains unclear.

These fables weren’t collected until roughly 300 years after Aesop’s death and originally belonged to oral tradition.

The Tortoise and the Hare have numbered the 226th fable in the Perry Index and tells the story of a race between unequal competitors– a hare and a tortoise. In the fable, the tortoise gets tired of the arrogance of the hare and challenges him to compete in a race. The hare is completely confident that he will win and leaves the tortoise behind quickly.

Midway through the race, though, the hare takes a nap. When he wakes up, the tortoise is ‘slowly and steadily’ marching toward the finish line. The hare sprints toward the end of the race but doesn’t make it there before the tortoise wins.

There are some competing theories about the moral of this fable. In Classical times, the foolish overconfidence of the hare was the emphasis of the story rather than the tortoise’s willingness to confront and defeat a bully.

Examples of 'Slow and Steady Wins the Race' In Sentences

How would you use ‘slow and steady wins the race’ in a sentence? Let’s look at some examples:

  • She has it in her mind that she needs to finish writing her book as fast as possible. I keep telling her slow and steady wins the race, but I don’t think I’m getting through to her.”
  • “I know you want to succeed in your career, but you’re taking on too much at once. Slow and steady wins the race. You’re going to burn out if you aren’t careful.”
  • “My dog is always so excited to go for a walk that she runs out of energy after five minutes and is ready to go back home. Slow and steady wins the race doesn’t seem to be a mentality that she was born with.”
  • “He isn’t the smartest guy at the office, but he truly is persistent and hard-working. Everyone else is always rushing and making mistakes. You can tell that his motto is slow and steady wins the race.”
  • Mrs. Adams would always remind us that slow and steady wins the race when she saw us racing to be the first to finish a quiz.”
  • “I know you think that you are better than everyone else because of your natural talent and quick mind, but don’t forget that slow and steady wins the race.”
  • “My boss is giving me a hard time for not completing as many tasks as Robert, but I know that he is turning in work that is filled with errors. Unfortunately, slow and steady wins the race doesn’t seem to be a concept my boss understands.”
  • “I am so eager to finish sewing this quilt for my daughter, but I know when I move too quickly I end up messing up, and I have to go back and fix my mistakes. Slow and steady wins the race.”
  • “Our company is really heading for murky water right now. It’s tempting to try and come up with a solution overnight, but I keep telling my team that slow and steady wins the race.

Other Ways to Say 'Slow and Steady Wins the Race'

What are some other phrases that convey a similar meaning as ‘slow and steady wins the race’? Here are some examples:

  • Haste makes waste
  • Slowly but surely
  • Hasty climbers have sudden falls
  • More haste, less speed
  • Look before you leap

When it comes to learning idioms and expanding your English vocabulary, ‘slow and steady wins the race!’ If you’re ready to move on to another phrase, make sure you check out our idioms blog.

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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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