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The meaning and origin of the expression: Rome wasn't built in a day

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Rome wasn't built in a day

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'Rome wasn't built in a day'?

A complex task or great achievement takes time and effort and should not be rushed.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Rome wasn't built in a day'?

The earliest known version of this expression is found in the collection of mediaeval French poems Li Proverbe au Vilain, which was published around 1190:

Rome ne fu[t] pas faite toute en un jour

The expression is first found in English in Richard Taverner's translation from the Latin of Erasmus's Prouerbes, 1545:

Ye may use this prouerbe when ye wol signifie that one daye... is not ynoughe for... acheuinge... a great matter... Rome was not buylt in one day.

John Heywood's A Dialogue Conteinyng the Nomber in Effect of all the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue, was published within a few months and contained the same proveb:

Rome was not bylt on a daie (quoth he) & yet stood Tyll it was fynysht, as some saie, full fayre.

The expression, (as "Rome was not built in one day") is given in English in (c. 1538),[2] while Queen Elizabeth referred to the idea in Latin in an address at Cambridge in 1563.[3] The present perfect and oratio recta version of the Latin saying—the version one would use for a stand-alone quotation—would be Roma uno die non est condita.


The proverb was well enough known for Queen Elizabeth I to have in cluded it in a public address that she made on a visit to Cambridge in 1564:

"But this common saying has given me a certain amount of comfort - a saying which cannot take away, but can at least lessen, the grief that I feel; and the saying is, that Rome was not built in one day."

See also: the List of Proverbs.

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