A Bird in the Hand Is Worth Two in the Bush (Origin)

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Origin of the Saying "A Bird in the Hand Is Worth Two in the Bush"?

The term "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" means having something certain is better than taking a risk for more. In other words, it means it's better to hold onto what you have rather than running the risk of attaining something better, which could lead to getting nothing.

The proverb comes from the sport of falconry, where "a bird in the hand" (i.e., the falcon) was to be more valued than two or more birds flying freely (i.e., the prey). More specifically, the proverb states that you should not risk losing your falcon for mere prey birds. In essence, it advises not to release your falcon under risky conditions.

Here are two early versions of the proverb:
  • "It is more sekyr [certain] a byrd in your fest, than to haue three in the sky a-boue." (AD 1450)
  • "Better one byrde in hande than ten in the wood. (AD 1546)
With its origins in the 15th century, "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" is one of the oldest proverbs in English. It is likely, however, that it is older still as it is probable its origins are from outside Britain, where falconry was more common.

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A Bird in the Hand Is Worth Two in the Bush (Origin)

Examples of Use:

  • He decided to accept the job offer he received, recognizing that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush and valuing the security it provided.
  • Instead of chasing after higher returns in volatile investments, he chose to prioritize stability, understanding that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
  • She decided to decline the tempting offer from another company, realizing that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush and valuing the stability of her current job.
  • In the face of uncertainty, it's often wise to choose the safer option, as a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush and guarantees a certain outcome.

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