make ends meet


make ends meet
also, make both ends meet

Meaning | Synonyms

  • make sufficient money to survive on
  • to have adequate money to manage expenses
  • to get by money-wise
  • cope
  • manage
  • break even
  • eke out a living
  • pay your bills
  • get by
  • scrape by

Example Sentences

  1. We will need to start saving money in order to make ends meet.
  2. She is so lazy that she hardly able to make both ends meet each month.


It is not known exactly where the phrase originated but it has been in use for centuries. It is thought that it may be related to making two pieces of cloth meet in order to make a complete dress or other piece of clothing. In much the same vein, it can be related to shipping. If a rope broke the captain would instruct his men to pull tightly on another in order to splice them together. In this way the ropes would meet and the sail would work again.

One of the earliest examples of the idiom can be found in Thomas Fuller’s The History of the Worthies of England (1661):

Worldly wealth he cared not for, desiring only to make both ends meet;

This implies that the idiom was well-known by this time and used by many.

It is also said that it is translated from the French ‘joindre les deux bouts de l’an’ which means to make both ends of the year meet. It implies that you have a stipend form the year and will need to live in such a manner that you do not use it all before the end of the year.

There are other origin stories but those seem to be the most realistic.

Share your opinions1 Opinion

I have been wondering for quite awhile, what exactly was meant by making “ends meet”. The best I found, which I’d like to share, is that first of all, it implies that it is the bare minimum. So when you aren’t making ends meet, you are making less than bare minimum…not enough. The term comes from the stocking up of food and supplies before the winter. Having just enough would be to run out right as winter ends. End of food and supplies meets end of winter. This also applies to a long journey (especially at sea) and to not run out before the trip is completed. “At the very least, we have to make ends meet”.

I hope this helps make more sense of the term. It did for me.

‒ Henry Einhorn March 5, 2023

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