phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Re: The end justifies the means

Posted by ESC on November 07, 2005

In Reply to: The end justifies the means posted by Aisha on November 07, 2005

: What do they mean when they say "the end justifies the means"?

END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS -- "The Greek playwright Sophocles wrote in Electra (c 409 B.C.), 'The end excuses any evil,' a thought later rendered by the Roman poet Ovid as 'The result justifies the deed' in 'Heroides' (c. 10 B.C.)." From "Wise Words and Wives' Tales: The Origins, Meanings and Time-Honored Wisdom of Proverbs and Folk Sayings Olde and New" by Stuart Flexner and Doris Flexner (Avon Books, New York, 1993).

Another source explains the phrase as meaning: "Anything is acceptable if it leads to a successful result." First use in the United States: "Diary" by Michael Wigglesworth (1631-1705), American clergyman and poet. "The means justify the end" is a variation. From "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).