What Does Make Hay While the Sun Shines Mean?

Make Hay While the Sun Shines Meaning

Definition: Take action when possible; don’t procrastinate; take advantage of any good opportunity.

Origin of Make Hay While the Sun Shines

This expression first appeared in the 1500s, and had a literal meaning. Farmers must cut their hay on a sunny day because the rain would prevent them from doing so.

It was difficult (and remains so) to predict the weather to know if it would rain the next day, so a good farmer would take advantage of the sunny weather while he could.

By the 1600s, people had begun to use the phrase figuratively.

In his 1852 book, On the Lessons in Proverbs, R.C. Trench, the Archbishop of Canterbury outlined the meaning and idea behind this phrase.

  • Make hay while the sun shines is truly English, and could have had its birth only under such variable skies as ours.

Examples of Make Hay While the Sun Shines

make hay while the sun shines idiom meaningIn this dialogue, a brother and sister are arguing about when to take their dog to the vet.

Maria: Have you taken our dog to the vet yet?

Franco: Actually, not yet.

Maria: What are you waiting for? It’s important for the dog to get her vaccines.

Franco: She hates going to the vet, and I think people over-vaccinate their animals. I have a friend who never vaccinated his dog, and his dog was just fine!

Maria: Just because his dog didn’t catch a horrible disease and die doesn’t mean that ours won’t. I have a friend of my own who never vaccinated her dog, and her dog died from a preventable disease!

Franco: Yeah. Fine. I’ll do it next week.

Maria: Next week might be too late! You’ve got to make hay while the sun shines. If you wait too long, our dog could already be sick. We’re taking her to the vet today and that’s final.

paragraph on make hay while the sun shinesThe second example shows two university students who are complaining about an upcoming test.

Lorenzo: I can’t believe this professor just told us we have a test on Monday!

Alba: Yeah, I know. I’m glad I already studied for my other class, which also has a test on Monday. If I hadn’t studied, I wouldn’t have time to study for this one as well.

Lorenzo: How did you know to study before? I didn’t study for that other class, and now I’ll have to study for two tests! There’s no way I’ll finish on time.

Alba: I didn’t know I had to study, but I like to make hay while the sun shines. You never know what will happen and mess up your schedule.

Lorenzo: That was smart of you.

More Examples

The excerpt below is from an obituary. The family believes it is important to enjoy life while you can.

  • If she were still here, she would gently & quietly encourage us to grieve less about the loss of her passing & celebrate more about the blessings our family has received over the years. After all, as she said many, many times before: “You need to make hay while the sun shines”. God Bless You Nannie, we will miss you. Your Loving Family. –New York Daily News

This excerpt is about a famous actress and comedian who wants to take advantage of her opportunities while she can.

  • Fey said her husband regularly sought to soothe her anxieties as a working mother who keeps the hours of a Wall Street investment banker with this adage: “Make hay while the sun shines.” She has interpreted it, she said, to mean that she should maximize her career opportunities now, with the expectation that she will eventually have the discipline to pull back. –OC Register

Summary

The saying make hay while the sun shines is an idiom that people use to say do what you have to while you can and don’t wait until it’s too late.