Jack of all trades
Jack of all trades (and master of none)
Meaning | Synonyms
- someone who is competent at many things but does not excel at any of them
- used to refer a person who can handle many different jobs but not really proficient in any of them
- I am very glad that my husband is a Jack of all trades; it saved us a lot of money when it came to renovating our house.
- My big brother is an engineer by profession but can drive big lorry, can repair the machines and running many stores of himself, he is really a Jack of all trades.
The phrase dates back to the 14th century. At this time the name Jack was typically used to describe the ordinary man. An example of this can be found in John Gower’s Middle English poem Confessio Amantis (1390).
“They seie, ‘A good felawe is Jacke’.”
These people were working class and often had to supplement their meagre income by doing other jobs. For example, a builder would supplement his income by painting or farming. Thus, they were not particularly good at these extra jobs that they took on.
One of the first places where the phrase was recorded was in Robert Greene’s 1592 booklet ‘Greene’s Groats-Worth of Wit’ where he refers to William Shakespeare as a “Jack of all trades”.
The phrase is often changed to “a Jack of all trades, master of none”. Meaning that the person completes multiple tasks but none are done very well. It is often used in a derogatory manner.