The meaning of “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”
The idiom “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” is a warning not to get rid of something good or valuable along with something bad. Be careful that when rejecting something bad, you do not make the mistake of throwing everything out, including something valuable. It is often used to warn people against making hasty decisions that they may later regret. The proverb can be applied to many different situations. For example, you might be considering quitting your job because you are unhappy with your boss. However, if you quit your job without having another one lined up, you could end up in financial trouble. In this case, it would be a mistake to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
The proverb is also sometimes used in a more literal sense. For example, if someone is cleaning their house and they accidentally throw away a valuable item, they might be told “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” This means that they should take a closer look at what they are throwing away and make sure that they are not throwing away something important.
Origin of the idiom “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”
It is thought to have originated in 16th century England, when people bathed infrequently and often shared the same bathwater. People usually had a bath once a year in May, after the long winter. The water had to be carried to the home; then the mother would have to boil it, and that would take hours. Then she would fill the biggest beer barrel they had. The father would bath first, then any other grown-up men, then the women, and then the children, in order of their age. When the baby’s turn came the water was black with the dirt accumulated over the winter by all the rest of the family. If someone were to accidentally throw the baby out with the bathwater, they would have lost a valuable life along with the dirty water!
“Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” may also have been influenced by the religious beliefs of the time. In many religions, babies are seen as a symbol of new life and hope. By throwing a baby away, someone would be symbolically throwing away the potential for a new beginning.
Here are some examples of how the idiom may be used in everyday conversation:
- “I know you’re frustrated with your car, but don’t just throw the whole thing out. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s still a reliable car, and it’s only a few years old.”
- “I know you’re not happy with your job, but don’t quit without having another one lined up. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, you don’t want to end up unemployed.”
- “I know you’re having problems in your relationship, but don’t give up on it just yet. Try to talk to your partner about your problems and see if you can work things out. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater “
- Don’t resist all change: you may miss out on opportunities, so don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”