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What Does “Make Ends Meet” Mean? How To Use It In A Sentence

What Does “Make Ends Meet” Mean? How To Use It In A Sentence

“Make Ends Meet” is an idiom of the English Language. It is an excellent example of an idiom that is often used in the English Language but is not direct in its meaning. But people who have used it in the past and their examples do tell us what this idiom really means and how to use it.

The meaning of the idiom is “to have enough money to buy what you need to live.” It means to have your needs fulfilled with the little money you have. When used in a sentence it will serve as a figure of speech that indicates “earning just enough to live on.”

Another way this idiom is used with the same meaning is “Make Both Ends Meet.” People use it both ways, but it matters where it is being used. This other version also means the same, but it is mostly used where the topic is about a single individual.

If the discussion targets any organization or a group of people, then “Make ends meet;” is the right way to go. Let us look in detail at what the phrase means and where it originated from.

Origin of the Idiom

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The exact origin of the idiom is unknown because there are many stories about the idiom’s exact meaning and the way people used it in the past. Some stories are said to be closely related to the real meaning of the idiom today.

The idiom originates from the 1600s, when people started using these phrases or idioms in their daily conversations. For those who do not know what an idiom is, an idiom is a word, a group of words, or a phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. Sometimes, an idiom’s literal meaning is the real meaning, but most of the time, its meaning differs from the literal meaning, which makes it hard for new people to learn and understand it.

One can easily learn an idiom if one understands the concept of its origin. Many people use different phrases in their daily life without truly knowing the origin of what they are saying. Because these groups of words have multiple meanings, so one needs to first understand what the phrase is representing. Only then, a person can use the phrase in the right manner and at the right place.

Here are a few versions from different writers regarding the origin of the phrase,


Sailing Masts

This version originates from the sailing ships, which had lots of masts. These masts were hung ropes that moved, but some of them were tied to the ropes that were permanent. During sailing, when the lower ropes attached to the masts would break, the captain of the ship would order the sailors to pull the ropes together. They would splice up the ropes to get their ends meet again, and then they would pull them further and tug them onto the canvas. This would help the masts to be productive again for the sailing purpose, and the ship would get back into its normal sailing condition.

The Belt

In the early 1600s, people used to tie a belt on their waists in order to see if one is frugal or not. They would judge by this that if the person is eating less and is frugal, then the belt should fasten up, and the ends of the belt on the waist would meet with each other. These ends meeting would indicate a person’s low diet and would phrase. They would then use the metaphor of Making ends meet, which would mean that the person is low on diet and is frugal.

Income to Expense

The defined meaning of the phrase is to have enough money to meet the necessities of life, which means that the income is enough for the expenses of one’s living needs. This concert has also been generated from the 1600s where writers used to phrase this idiom in their novels. The oldest example of this is in ‘The History of the Worthies of England,’ a book by Thomas Fuller.

The book was published in 1661, and the phrase is used in the book as: “Worldly wealth he cared for, desiring only to make both ends meet; and as for that little that lapped over he gave it to pious uses.” The author has used the idiom in his book, and it clearly indicates that this phrase originated surely before its use in this book.


The expression is supposed to be identified with accounting from earlier hundreds of years in which the all out at the base (“end”) of the section of pay should participate in any event coordinate with that at the lower part of the user segment on the off chance that one isn’t to be living past one’s pay. The expression is likewise known in the structure to make the two closures of the year meet, which may fortify that association on the off chance that we think about the typical finish of-year bookkeeping, then again, actually that structure isn’t the first one and wasn’t recorded until Tobias Smollett utilized it in Roderick Random in 1748.

There are several other versions of the origin of the idiom, but these seem to be more realistic and close to reality. People have created their own versions of the origin according to their ancestors’ use of the phrase. Anyhow, the origin is still very murky, but to get an idea, these are the nearest examples.

How People Use The Phrase


The phrase is used in many sentences according to the situation. But, as we have established that the phrase is related mostly to the financial condition of a person, the use of this sentence becomes limited. People often use it when they are describing a condition of self or someone else.

While using the phrase in the sentence, it needs to be made sure that the real meaning of the idiom is clearly displayed. A sentence can be structured in many ways, and so does the idiom. We can use the idiom in multiple ways. Unlike verbs or adjectives, idioms do not follow strict language rules. So when using it in a sentence, the only thing that matters will be that it is displaying its true meaning.

Idioms only have one rule; while using it in a sentence, one should not deviate from the real meaning of the phrase they use. Once the idiom has clarity in a sentence, it is good to go.

People often make mistakes and confuse the phrase with its other versions. So, before using any idiom, it should be understood clearly, and its meaning should be clear in one’s mind.


Let’s look at some examples to get a much clearer understanding of the idiom under discussion and how to use it in sentences:

  1. My mother pawned her jewelry singer and the harmonica player finally resorted to making ends meet
  2. To make ends meet, the committee beavered away while trying to make everything right.
  3. The film has a youthful, irreverent couple living affectionately in Montreal and Toronto, trying to make ends meet.
  4. In the run-up to his trial, he had been reduced to doing gardening work and chauffeuring friends to make ends meet.
  5. So how do creative people make ends meet whilst doing their heart’s desire?
  6. In order to help make ends meet by making more money, Johnny turned to freelance writing on the weekends.
  7. Liz and Nick were always out to work, but they barely had enough money to make both ends meet.
  8. It has had a drastic effect on membership, and many clubs are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.
  9. Cost of living in the city and the tuition fees can lead to spiraling debts or long hours in dead-end jobs taken to make both ends meet.
  10. Her four-year course got her wondering how she will make ends meet during the tenure.
  11. While working at church as a pastor, Nancy was trying to make both ends meet.
  12. Iranians work double shifts in order to make ends meet.
  13. Making ends meet is a far greater concern than international politics.
  14. Margulies makes both ends meet by making adaptations for the movie business.
  15. He worked at theaters as a stagehand to make ends meet.

Other Idioms


After looking into detail what the idiom means and what its false interpretations are, you need to make sure that you know the idiom well before using it in your sentence. People make common mistakes while using idioms, and some have been discussed in this article. So, if you are unclear about the meaning of an idiom that you listen to or are about to use, just look it up on the internet and do some research.

You can find multiple meanings about the idiom that you look for. You just need to perform thorough research and understand the origin and get to know the real essence of the phrase under consideration.

Once you have completely understood the meaning and the real essence of an idiom, then you can move on to using it right away in your sentences. To sum things up, just make sure you do not use the wrong idiom in the wrong place.