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The meaning and origin of the expression: Make a virtue of necessity

Make a virtue of necessity

What's the meaning of the phrase 'Make a virtue of necessity'?

Obtain kudos from apparently willingly doing something that one was in fact couldn't avoid doing. It is also used to mean 'submit with good grace'.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Make a virtue of necessity'?

Make a virtue of necessityThis is first recorded in Chaucer. He used it in several texts, including The Canterbury Tales - the Knight's Tale:

Convertynge al unto his propre welle
From which it is dirryved, sooth to telle?
And heer-agayns no creature on lyve,
Of no degree, availleth for to stryve.
Thanne is it wysdom, as it thynketh me,
To maken vertu of necessitee, ...

In modern English:

Converting all back to that primal well
From which it was derived, 'tis sooth to tell.
And against this, for every thing alive,
Of any state, avalls it not to strive.
"Then is it wisdom, as it seems to me,
To make a virtue of necessity, ...

Shakespeare also used it in Two Gentlemen of Verona, 1591.

Second Outlaw Indeed, because you are a banish'd man,
Therefore, above the rest, we parley to you:
Are you content to be our general?
To make a virtue of necessity
And live, as we do, in this wilderness?

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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