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

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Make a virtue of necessity

Meaning

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'.

Origin

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?

See other phrases and sayings from Shakespeare.