jack of all trades
jack of all trades (and master of none)
also, jill of all trades (female version by analogy with jack of all trades).
- a person who can easily handle a variety of challenges and tasks.
- refers to a person who is capable of handling a variety of tasks but is not particularly skilled in any of them.
- an individual with a broad range of abilities but no particular mastery.
- a person with a broad range of knowledge but who might not be an expert in any one field or profession.
- My grandfather was a jack of all trades. He had never attended college, but he was an accomplished musician, gardener, piano player, and spoke several languages.
- My mother will be so glad to know that my fiancé is a jack of all trades.
- My elder brother is an engineer by profession, but he can drive a heavy truck, fix all types of engines, and also own several shops. You can call him a jack of all trades.
- Sarah is a jill of all trades and has been able to adapt to a variety of job roles throughout her career despite not having any formal education in any particular field.
The phrase dates back to the 14th century. At this time, the name Jack was typically used to describe an 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 the 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.