What Does A Stitch in Time Saves Nine Mean?

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine Meaning

Definition: If you solve a problem as early as possible, it will save you time by not becoming a bigger problem.

The proverb a stitch in time saves nine means that, if one solves a problem while it is developing, one will save oneself time and work in the future. It alludes to the art of sewing. If a seamstress is working on a garment and notices a hole, she may repair it as soon as she sees it. This will prevent the hole from growing larger and will save her some work in the future.

Origin of A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

This saying has its roots in the 18th century. One of its early appearances is in Thomas Fuller’s 1732 collection of proverbs.

meaning of the proverb a stitch in time saves nineThe proverb was popular before its appearance in the book, but, as it the case with most English proverbs, the etymology of this one is unclear.

Another early print source in Francis Baily’s 1797 Journal of a Tour in Unsettled Parts of North America in 1796 & 1797, which was published in 1856:

After a little while we acquired a method of keeping her in the middle of the stream, by watching the moment she began to vary, and thereby verifying the vulgar proverb, “A stitch in time saves nine.”

The word nine in this expression is confusing – a stitch in time saves nine what? Because it is related to sewing, one can assume a stitch in time saves nine stitches. It is unclear why nine was chosen specifically; it may be because it rhymes.

Examples of A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

meaning of stitch in time saves nineIn this sample exchange, Robert and Natasha are working on their car. Natasha notices the air pressure is a little low in one of the tires. When she points it out to Robert, he encourages her to inflate the tire now because a stitch in time saves nine.

Natasha: This tire’s a little low.

Robert: Go ahead and pump it up.

 Natasha: I’m sure it will be fine until tomorrow.

Robert: Yeah, but you could also have a flat tire before then. You know what they say – a stitch in time saves nine.

More Examples

  • The old saying, “a stitch in time saves nine” is even more true when it comes to road repairs. Road maintenance that costs $1 today on a decent road can grow by $9 when a road’s “Pavement Condition Index” slips to “fair,” or by $45 dollars when the road condition falls to “failed,” according to the California Transportation Commission. – San Francisco Chronicle

Summary

The English proverb a stitch in time saves nine means that one should fix a problem as soon as one notices it to save one some extra work in the future.