no man is an island

no man is an island

Meaning

  • no one is self-sufficient; everyone relies on others somehow
  • a person needs the support of others and society altogether to survive
  • nobody is actually self-contained; everyone must depend on others in order to thrive
  • to require help from others every now and then because of one’s limitations

Example Sentences

  1. Having children has taught me that no man is an island.
  2. No man is an island, you know, you will need to call me back to work for you!
  3. I have fired my maidservant today but know that I will have to hire her back since no man is an island!
  4. You need to relook at the proposal that you have sent to me. Almost all the actionable items are in the name of one person only, and I know that no man is an island.
  5. She tried doing it all by herself but broke down in six months because no man is an island.
  6. Prince Charles has made an emotional appeal to the European neighbours to continue working together after Brexit, saying: “no man is an island.”

Origin

The saying was coined by the English metaphysical poet John Donne (1572-1631) in the sermon Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and Seuerall Steps in my SicknesMeditation XVII – one of a series of essays he wrote when he was seriously ill in the winter of 1623.

No man is an island,
entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were.
as well as if a manor of thy friend’s
or of thine own were.
Any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind;
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.

John Donne was a Christian, but the concept of the idiom is likely to be coming from Buddhism. The phrase originates from the understanding of islands being self-sufficient and independent. It is compared with men because no matter how able, no person can do everything by themselves. Human beings are social animals and cannot function independently, the way islands do. The metaphor takes the literal meaning of how an island would never mingle with other parts of the land, but humans cannot do that because an island cannot move by itself and is bound where it is, but that is not the same for human beings.

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N 4 Thoughts

4 Thoughts

No man is an island. No one is self-sufficient; everyone relies on others. This saying comes from a sermon by the seventeenth-century English author John Donne.

- Joshua R Jones July 3, 2018

Which country or nation this idiom is comimg from?

- Xezer April 24, 2018

@Jane

The literary origin of this phrase is highly speculated to be John Donne’s “Devotion upon emergent occasions and seuerall steps in my sickness – Meditaion 17” from the year 1624 but the thought is speculated to be older than that.

Thank you,
The Idioms Team.

- Fatima October 30, 2017

Does the origin of this having nothing to do with John Donne’s ‘Devotion 17’?

- Jane October 24, 2017

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