The phrase “Every dog has its day” is over 450 years, old and the impulse beneath the phrase even older. It was popularized by William Shakespeare in his play Hamlet, but it had been used in various forms before that. The phrase means that success is available to everyone, or that everyone will experience success at some point in their life. For example, you might say “Don’t worry, you’ll get chosen for the team. Every dog has its day.” or “You may become famous someday. Every dog has his day.” The idiom “every dog has its day” means that everyone will eventually have their chance to succeed. It is a reminder that no matter how humble your beginnings, you have the potential to achieve great things. This idiom is often used to encourage people who are feeling down or discouraged, and it can be a powerful motivator for those who are struggling.
Origin of the idiom “Every dog has its day”
The proverb was first recorded in the first century by Plutarch as: “Even a dog gets his revenge.” It comes closer to the modern version with Richard Taverner in Adages, 1539 as “A dogge hath a day.”
“Every dog has its day” in literature
In 1670 John Ray’s “A Collection of English Proverbs” had it as: “Every dog hath his day.”
1726 Pope’s translation of Odyssey V. xxii. “Dogs, ye have had your day; ye fear’d no more Ulysses vengeful from the Trojan shore.”
1837 Carlyle French Revolution III. i. i. “How changed for Marat, lifted from his dark cellar!‥All dogs have their day; even rabid dogs.”
1863 C. Kingsley Water Babies ii. “Young blood must have its course, lad, And every dog his day.”
1978 ‘M. Craig’ Were He Stranger x. ‘She could be his sister.’ ‘No way—not with a face like that.’ ‘Well, every dog deserves his day.’
Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist (1838). In Chapter XLI, the character of Bill Sikes uses the phrase to refer to the fact that even the most lowly and downtrodden people can eventually have their day of revenge. “Every dog has his day, and the day of the Dodger has come!”
Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). In Chapter XXXII, Tom Sawyer uses the phrase to encourage his friends to keep trying, even when things are tough. “Don’t give up, boys. Have heart, and don’t despair. Every dog has his day, and our day is a-coming.”
Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book (1894). In the poem “The Law of the Jungle,” Kipling uses the phrase to emphasize the importance of never giving up, no matter how difficult things may seem. “For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack. And the Pack is only as strong as each member of it. Therefore, O Wolves, obey the Law of the Jungle, and ye shall prosper, for so it was ordained of old.”
The Shakespeare connection
In using the (by then) common proverb in Act 5 scene 1 of Hamlet, Hamlet means that Laertes can rage all he wants to now, Hamlet will have his say in due course.
This is mere madness,
And thus awhile the fit will work on him.
Anon, as patient as the female dove
When that her golden couplets are disclosed,
His silence will sit drooping.
[to Laertes] Hear you, sir,
What is the reason that you use me thus?
I loved you ever. But it is no matter.
Let Hercules himself do what he may,
The cat will mew, and dog will have his day.
Every dog has its day
Using “every dog has his day”
In addition to its use in literature, the idiom “every dog has its day” is also commonly used in everyday speech. It is a flexible phrase that can be used in several contexts. For example, you might use it to console a friend who is feeling down about their job search, or to encourage a child who is struggling in school. The idiom can also be used in a more humorous way. For example, you might say “Every dog has its day, even the mailman’s” to make light of a difficult situation. Here are some contexts in which it may be used.
- “Don’t worry, every dog has its day. You’ll get your chance to shine.”
- “The underdog team won the championship. Every dog has its day.”
- “After years of hard work, the scientist finally made a breakthrough. Every dog has its day.”
- “The poor farmer was able to buy a new farm after years of saving. Every dog has his day.”
- “The little train kept chugging along, even when the hill seemed too steep. Every dog has its day.”
- “The bullied kid finally stood up to his tormentor. Every dog has its day.”
- “The struggling artist finally got her big break. Every dog has its day.”
- “The down-on-his-luck gambler finally hit the jackpot. Every dog has its day.”
- “The underdog politician won the election. Every dog has its day.”
- “The little guy finally got his due. Every dog has its day.”