What Does A Chain is As Strong As Its Weakest Link Mean?

A Chain is As Strong As The Weakest Link Meaning

Definition: A group or organization is only as strong as the weakest or least powerful person.

This idiom is used to express that a group can only be as successful as its least successful or powerful person. The success of the entire group depends on the success of each individual member of the group. If one person fails, the whole group fails.
 

Origin of A Chain is As Strong As Its Weakest Link

There is little information about the first recorded use of this idiom. It may have originated from an ancient Basque proverb with a similar meaning that translates to, “a thread usually breaks from where it is thinnest.”

only as strong as your weakest link quoteA variation of the idiom first appeared in Thomas Reid’s “Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man,” published in 1786. The full idiom “a chain is no stronger than its weakest link” was first printed in Cornhill Magazine in 1868.

The idiom itself can be expressed in a number of different ways,

  • A Chain is As Strong As The Weakest Link
  • A Chain is No Stronger Than Its Weakest Link
  • A Chain is As Strong As Its Weakest Link
  • You’re Only As Strong As Your Weakest Link

All of these examples communicate the same idea.

Examples of A Chain is As Strong As Its Weakest Link

strongest chain weakest link quotesThe idiom stresses that each individual’s success is vital to the success of the entire group. It may or may not be used in reference to a person’s physical strength or work ethic.

An example conversation between a football coach and a recently injured team member illustrates the correct use of this idiom.

Coach: I’m sorry, but I can’t let you play in Friday’s game.

Player: Why not? I’m fine. The doctor said it’s just a minor sprain. I feel fine.

Coach: If you play with a sprained ankle, you could jeopardize our chances of winning. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

More Examples

  • A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and the Nets, one of the league’s more dysfunctional franchises over the decades, are a weak link the N.B.A. hopes to strengthen. –New York Times
  • John W. Warner (R-VA.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on “Face the Nation” that if China’s 880-mile border with North Korea “is left open, then all the rest of the containment and security measures could easily fail…A chain is no stronger than its weakest link.” –LA Times

Summary

The English phrase a chain is no stronger than its weakest link means that a group is only as strong or successful as its weakest or least successful member.

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