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The meaning and origin of the expression: Good riddance

Good riddance

What's the meaning of the phrase 'Good riddance'?

An expression of pleasure on being rid of some annoyance - usually an individual.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Good riddance'?

'Riddance' is now so completely associated with this little phrase that it is rarely, if ever, seen out alone. The only sort of riddance on offer these days is a good one. It wasn't always thus. In the 16th century a riddance was a general-purpose noun and meant 'deliverance from' or 'getting rid of'. The first adjectives to be linked with the word were fayre/happy/gladsome and, in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, 1600, Portia wishes the Prince of Morocco 'a gentle riddance'.

A very early use of riddance comes in John Rastell's poem, Away Mourning, circa 1525:

I haue her lost,
For all my cost,
Yet for all that I trowe
I haue perchaunce,
A fayre ryddaunce,
And am quyt of a shrew.

The meaning and origin of the phrase 'Good riddance'Shakespeare appears to be the coiner of 'good riddance', in Troilus and Cressida, 1606:

Thersites: I will see you hanged, like clotpoles, ere I come any more to your tents: I will keep where there is wit stirring and leave the faction of fools.
Patroclus: A good riddance.

The phrase is often extended and emphasized as 'good riddance to bad rubbish' or, as that extended form was first coined, 'good riddance of bad rubbish'. Tobias Smollett used the phrase in a none too friendly comment, in The Critical Review, 1805:

But we are sorry ... to consider Mr. Pratt's writings as 'purely evil' ... we should really look upon this author's departure from the world of literature as a good riddance of bad rubbish.

Good riddanceThe American journalist and member of President Andrew Jackson's 'Kitchen Cabinet', Francis Preston Blair, wrote an editorial in The Extra Globe, 1841. In this he appears to have been the first to use the precise version of the phrase that is most commonly used now:

[Following the withdrawal of members of a rival advisory group] From the bottom of our hearts we are disposed to exclaim "Good riddance to bad rubbish."

See other phrases that were coined in the USA.

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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