Fend for yourself


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Fend for yourself'?

To ‘fend for yourself’ is to provide for yourself – to be able to cope with whatever life throws at you. The expression is usually applied to youngsters, animal or human, who have previously been taken care of by their parents.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Fend for yourself'?

‘Fend for yourself’ is one of the phrases that we deduce the meaning of by the context it is used in and assimilate as we are learning the language.

There’s not a great deal to be said about this phrase, other than that it originated in England in the mid 17th century.

The first example that I have found of the expression in print is in a book by the English writer Thomas Jackson, A treatise of the divine essence and attributes. 1629:

The lioness doth not perpetually nourish her whelps with her own substance; nor does the raven continually provide for her young ones… but leave them to fend for themselves..

Trend of fend for yourself in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.