On the mend

What is the meaning of the phrase ‘On the mend’?

Getting better following an illness or need of improvement.

What is the origin of the phrase ‘On the mend’?

The phrase and idiom ‘On the mend’ is believed to have originated from Middle English, or in other words before mediaeval times. It is derived from the Middle English verb ‘menden’ which in turn is thought to be derived from the Old French word ‘Menden’, which means ‘to repair’ or ‘to heal’. Much like the word ‘amend’ which means ‘to put right’.

While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact first use of the phrase “on the mend,” it became popular in the English language by the 1800s to describe the process of recovery and improvement.

The term ‘mend’ is still used today to describe fixing something that has come into disrepair. While initially the term was used to describe fixing physical objects, in the 1800s, it later came to be used to describe fixing less tangible things, such as someone’s emotions, or their relationships or career.

What are some notable uses of the phrase ‘On the mend’?

Historically, the phrase ‘On the mend’ has been used in the publication The New York Times to describe the recovery of President Ulysses Simpson Grant, a war hero, the one-time general of the army, and later, the 8th President of the United States between the years of 1869 and 1877.

The phrase ‘On the mend’ has also been used in literary classics, including Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights” published in 1847, when the enigmatic character Heathcliff describes how he’s glad to see Catherine in recovery.

Similarly, the author Charles Dickens also used the phrase in his book ‘Bleak House’ published in 1853 to describe a woman’s recovery from illness.

Trend of on the mend in printed material over time

Cari Mayhew - Author at Phrase Finder

Cari Mayhew

Lifelong learner, phrase fanatic, and lover of literature across multiple genres. Cari Mayhew has a passion for expression, and a keen curiosity for how phrases begin and how their use transforms over time. She is often found looking for the ideal idiom to convey her thoughts and musings.