What Does The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side Mean?

The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side Meaning

Definition: When someone is not satisfied with their own lot in life and always assumes that there are better things in other places.

This idiom encapsulates the human quality of always wanting something different than what you have. It assumes that your neighbor’s yard is greener than yours, when, in reality, they are the same or your neighbor is actually coveting what you have.

It expresses the idea that people often think a different set of circumstances would bring them greater joy; however, the phrase is often used in the context of reminding people that this is not usually the case.

Origin of The Grass is Always Greener

the grass isn’t always greenerA Latin proverb cited by Erasmus of Rotterdam was translated into English by Richard Taverner in 1545, as:

  • “The corne in an other mans ground semeth euer more fertyll and plentifull then doth oure own.” (The corn in another man’s ground seems ever more fertile and plentiful than our own does.)

The poet Ovid takes this further, saying in his “Art of Love” (1 BC) that “the harvest is always richer in another man’s field.”

As far as modern English sources, this idiom has been popular since at least the early 1900’s, evidenced by the fact that a song recorded in 1924 by Raymond B. Egan and Richard A. Whiting carried its wording, “The Grass is Always Greener in the Other Fellow’s Yard.”

That said, it is clear that the sentiment of this idiom has been expressed in some form or another for thousands of years, and the true origin may never be known.

Examples of The Grass Is Always Greener

grass is greener syndromeToday, people use many variations of the phrase. They may simply say, “the grass is always greener…” to bring to the attention of a friend that they are complaining about something they can fix themselves, or they may say the phrase in entirety, as in, “Susie’s never happy. Every time she gets what she wants, she forgets it and starts looking for something new. She always thinks the grass is greener on the other side.”

A new phrase has sprung up to counter this idiom, saying, “the grass is greener where you water it.” This suggests that good situations come from the energy you put into them, not from dreaming about them.

More Examples

  • “So it seems that the grass is not always greener on the other side. An ex-colleague who had left for another firm texted me for advice one day. ‘Viv, I think I made a mistake leaving. Do you think I can go back?’” –Business Times
  • “She never lost faith in Fargo and defends it fervently. ‘People say the grass is greener on the other side,’ she said. ‘I like to fertilize the side I’m on.’” –The Washington Post

Summary

The feeling that the grass is always greener on the other side is experienced by people who believe that others have it better than they do.