What Does “Haste Makes Waste” Mean? When And How To Use It

what does haste makes waste mean

In the English language, you find a lot of idioms like “haste makes waste.” If it’s the first time hearing this phrase you may find yourself scratching your head wondering what it even means.

The phrase “haste makes waste” is oftentimes said when someone is doing something too quickly. It means that because they’re acting in this way they’re bound to waste a lot of time, effort, and materials.

guy makes a mess with boxes due going fast

Origin of the Phrase

The proverbial saying, “haste makes waste,” is similar to saying, “more haste, less speed.” Both of these sayings also convey the same notion that we derive from “a switch in time saves 9.” As is oftentimes true with proverbs, we receive some conflicting advice here. This can also be seen in other proverbs like “strike while the iron is hot” and “time waits for no man.”

The idea that it’s counterproductive for a person to act hastily is something that originated a long time ago. In fact, it’s something that we first see in print in 190 BCEE in the apocryphal Book of Wisdom where it’s written, “There is one that toilet and laboureth, and maketh haste, and is so much the more behind.”

We also find this proverb being used by the Tudor scholar Nicholas Udall when he translated the proverbs of Erasmus – Apophthegmes in 1542. Here he uses the proverb in the index itself. While this points to a page number, the proverb doesn’t appear on that page. In fact, the page itself seems to skirt around it.

A few years later, in 1546, John Heywood included the proverb in his writings entitled, “A Dialogue containing the number in effect of all the Prouerbes in the English tongue” Here he writes, “Some things that provoke young men to wed in haste. Show after wedding that haste maketh waste.” In saying this, Heywood himself seems to disapprove of haste. This could have been due to a personal experience he had since he’s particularly critical of anyone who chooses to rush into marriage. Heywood got married at the age of 26 which was considered young in 16th century England. It is worth noting however that there isn’t any record of him having regrets for having married at this age. Some people today are actually happy that he chose to get married at this age because if he hadn’t have done so we wouldn’t have the writings that were produced by his grandson, John Donne.

Once again we come across this phrase in 1575. This time it was used in one of John Ray’s collections of 1,678 proverbs. In one of these proverbs, John Ray writes, “Haste makes waste, and waste makes want, and want makes strife between the goodman and his wife.”

Meaning of the Phrase

There are two key ideas that are used within this proverb, “haste makes waste.” The first is that of haste, which means to move or to do something quickly. A synonym for the word haste would be “hurrying.” The second is that of waste – a word that could actually have several meanings. Not only could the word mean “to lose out on something” but, at the same time, it could also mean “to not do something efficiently.” When we take a look at the combination of words that are used in the proverb “haste makes waste” we see that it actually means that if you go too fast you will lose out on something.

haste makes waste sign

Some people find that this proverb is ironic. This is because typically you’d think that doing things as quickly as possible would be a great way to achieve a good result. However, with this proverb, we’re told that the opposite is actually true. It tells us that when we act too quickly we’ll waste time, resources, opportunities, ideas, or whatever else we may be working on at the time.

Many people also like the fact that this proverb uses rhyming. When you look at the proverb as a single sentence you see that there’s an internal rhyme present within this proverb: “haste” and “waste.” There are actually a lot of proverbs that work with rhyming like this. Some people would even go so far as to say that this is what helped to make these proverbs so memorable in the first place. When you have a proverb that’s as old as “haste makes waste” these proverbs usually started off as part of the language’s oral tradition instead of having been written down. This means that they’ve been passed down through the generations by people who have said them to one another. Here is yet another way in which the use of rhyme has helped: It’s made these proverbs more memorable.

Example Sentences

Now that you have a better understanding of what “haste makes waste” means, you may want to use it in a sentence. Here are a few examples of sentences to help you get started:

  • Try not to rush through your project even though you’re in a hurry to get it done because haste makes waste.
  • Make sure you take your time and check the files carefully. Remember, haste makes waste.
  • By trying to finish your work in a hurry you’ll end up making a lot of mistakes and you’ll have to redo things. You know, haste makes waste.
  • I’d rather take my time and write a good paper than rush through it and make a lot of mistakes. Even if I miss the deadline, haste makes waste.
  • Make sure you’re careful to thoroughly check the papers before you submit them because haste makes waste.
  • When you try to finish your project in 5 minutes your teacher will make you redo it. Remember, haste makes waste.
  • If you’re running late, take your time because haste makes waste and you’ll forget something.
  • Let’s take a break before finishing the project. Haste makes waste.
  • Let’s wait to see how many guests confirm their attendance before we make a hasty decision to spend the money. You know haste makes waste.
  • I’ve discovered that the proverb “haste makes waste” definitely applies here.

Significance of the Phrase

The phrase “haste makes waste” is significant in many aspects of our lives today. It’s important to look at how this phrase applies to these different parts of our lives so that we can get a better understanding of it:

  • Work: When we slow down and are careful about what we’re doing, we tend to do a much better job. By not cutting corners we’re able to save time in the long run since we don’t have to go back and redo what we did wrong.
  • Health and safety: Being too hasty can actually be dangerous. Whether it’s because we don’t take the time to properly read health and safety notices or we get into an accident we’ll waste a lot of time and money.
  • The good things in life: When you move hastily through life you’ll miss out on the beauty life has to offer. Here the proverb “haste makes waste” reminds us of another proverb that instructs us to “stop and smell the roses” along the way.
  • Forward planning: This proverb serves as a helpful reminder that we shouldn’t rush into doing things without first making a plan. With some careful planning, we’re able to make sure that everything will go smoothly and that we don’t waste our time or resources due to careless thinking.
  • Appreciating time: We should look at time as a valuable resource that should be appreciated, not wasted. This proverb does a great job of reminding us that one of the biggest ways in which we waste time is by rushing around trying to accomplish things.
  • Relieving stress: Rushing around can be really stressful. By remembering this proverb we’re able to lighten this stress in our lives.
  • Money and resources: It’s good for our environment and our pocketbook when we reduce waste. This proverb suggests that the simplest way to reduce such waste is by being less hasty.

guy makes face as if he messed something up


Whenever you find yourself rushing around trying to get something done you should remember, “haste makes waste.” This is a good proverb to remember because it’s nearly universally applicable. There are so many different things it can be used to apply to in both your work and leisure life. Whether you use it to remind you that you should “stop and smell the roses” or that you should take your time so you don’t get into an accident while you’re at work, this proverb will allow you to enjoy a more cost-effective, time-efficient, stress-free lifestyle. So while this is a proverb with a lot of ancient roots it’s still one that’s very applicable to the modern, fast-paced society we find ourselves living in today.


Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

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