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

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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.

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