know on which side bread is buttered

know on which side one’s bread is buttered,
also, know what side one’s bread is buttered on

Meaning

  • know what is to one’s advantage
  • to be aware of where your interests lie and who you should support to achieve something greater
  • to know who is helpful to you and how you should act to get what you want
  • to also understand what benefits you and who you should put your energy behind to get those benefits or advantages

Example Sentences

  1. She’s far too clever to irritate her employer as she knows which side her bread is buttered on.
  2. John gave his boss a gift last week because he knows which side his bread is buttered.
  3. Jenny supported a different political candidate because she knows which side her bread is buttered.
  4. Since Amy knows which side her bread is buttered on, she’s always so nice to customers.
  5. “The trouble with you, John, is you don’t know on which side your bread is buttered.”
  6. My daddy is going to make sure I know what side my bread is buttered on.
  7. I know which side my bread is buttered on, so I truly value my mom’s support.

Origin

The origin of this idiom comes as early as the mid-1500s. And it was first recorded by John Heywood. He referenced the phrase in his glossary A Dialogue Conteinyng the Nomber in Effect of all the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue (published in 1546):

“I knowe on whiche syde my breade is buttred.”

The phrase’s origin comes from a time when people depended on others to survive and needed to work as a whole to make sure their way of life wasn’t harmed. Ultimately because these people relied on someone else to live, there wasn’t room to be independent and self-serving because those around you may just help you out in the end.

The conception of this idiom “Know which side your bread is buttered,” came from a time where people needed to know exactly where their interests lie and who to support, mainly if their next meal depended on it.

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