Left to his own devices

Posted by ESC on February 03, 2003

In Reply to: "Left to my own devices" posted by TheFallen on February 03, 2003

: : Anyone know about this phrase?

: : To leave one to one's own devices?

: : thanks.

: : Danny

: Nowadays, "device" most commonly means a machine or piece of machinery designed to carry out one or more simple functions. It's the nominal form from the verb "to devise", which again these days means to plan or design.

: However, a few hundred years ago, "to devise" used to have a less specific meaning, namely nothing more than to dream up or imagine - for sure, this is similar to its usual modern meaning, but doesn't carry with it the implication of fixed purpose or careful planning.

: It's this latter slightly archaic meaning that's referred to in the idiom "left to one's own devices". If you are left to your own devices, you're being allowed to do as you like, to get up to whatever you please.

An example of usage:

"UNITED NATIONS-Responding to pressure from the international community, the U.N. ordered enigmatic candy maker William 'Willy' Wonka to submit to chocolate-factory inspections Monday..
'We are talking about a man who is able to take a rainbow and cover it with dew,' Bush told reporters during a press conference Monday. 'Who knows what else he is capable of? Left to his own devices, he could, in a worst-case scenario, make the world taste very bad, indeed.'."