phrases, sayings, proverbs and idioms at

The meaning and origin of the expression: Ne'er do well

Ne'er do well

What's the meaning of the phrase 'Ne'er do well'?

A worthless, good for nothing person.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Ne'er do well'?

The term 'ne'er do well' is of course a contraction of 'never do well'. Ne'er has been used in that shortened form since the 13th century, notably in the North of England and in Scotland. 'Ne'er do well' itself originated in Scotland and an early citation of it in print is found in the Scottish poet and playwright Allan Ramsay's A collection of Scots proverbs, 1737:

Some ha'e a hantla fauts [have many faults] , ye are only a ne'er-do-well.

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.

Browse phrases beginning with:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ Full List