Idiom fun! A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

This one’s a bit of a mouthful, don’t you think? A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush is an excellent expression that can be applied to so many different scenarios. Sometimes we just don’t know how lucky we are with what we already have.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

The bible contains our first written record of this idiom. Ecclesiastes IX states “A living dog is better than a dead lion.” Pretty cool, heh? It shows for millennia, people have recognised it is often better, or safer, to have a lesser but certain advantage than only the possibility of a greater one.

The phrase is commonly used when gambling. Sometimes it’s better to “quit while you’re ahead” (another idiom) and keep your winnings, rather than risk them all on potentially, but not certain, bigger winnings.

Let’s look at what other languages say:

French: Un tiens vaut mieux que deus tu l’auras – Getting something now is worth more than two you-can-have-it-laters. 

German: Besser ein Spatz in der Hand als eine Taube auf dem Dach – Better a sparrow in the hand than a Dove on the roof.

Italian: Meglio un uovo oggi che una gallina domani – Better an egg today than a hen tomorrow.

Dutch: Beter één vogel in de hand dan tien in de lucht – Better a bird in the hand than ten in the air

Spanish: Más vale pájaro en mano que ciento volando – Better a bird in hand than a hundred flying

Welsh: Aderyn llaw yn cael ei werth dau yn y llwyn  – A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

There you have it! Interesting what each culture deems to be better to have in the hand, and what’s inspirational “in the bush”. Really get a good idea of how people tick when you get idioms like this one.

Get in touch via Twitter if you have a particular idiom you’d love to know.


Robert Lo Bue

Rob is CEO of Applingua. With over a decade's experience, he is at the forefront of tech localization.