What Does Bad News Travels Fast Mean?

Bad News Travels Fast Meaning

Definition: When something negative happens, people learn of it quickly.

Origin of Bad News Travels Fast

The idea behind this expression is that people are quick to share information about misfortune or something bad. On the other hand, good news often goes unreported.

Similar expressions originated in the 1500s. These include examples such as “Euill news neuer commeth to late” from the writer E. Hellowes in the work Guevara’s Epistles from the year 1574.

Another example is “Euill news flie faster still than good” from the writer T. Kyd in the work The Spanish Tragedy from the year 1592.  

Of the various iterations of this expression, Charles Dickens’s use of it in his novel The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby probably made it gain widespread popularity.

In this 1839 novel, Dickens uses the following phrase,

  • Ill news travels fast.

Examples of Bad News Travels Fast

define bad news travels fast origin This example shows two co-workers who are discussing recent developments at the company.

Regina: Ginny, did you hear that the company might need to declare bankruptcy?

Ginny: Unfortunately, yes. I also heard that they are going to try to lay off some workers by the end of the day today.

Regina: I guess the company just released this information a couple minutes ago. How did you learn about it so fast? I was one of the first people the CEO told.

Ginny: Bad news travels fast.

bad news travels fast proverb The conversation below shows two friends discussing a terrible accident.

Timmy: Kelsey, I’m so sorry to have to tell you this, but I have awful news.

Kelsey: Is it about Nicole?

Timmy: Yes! How did you know?

Kelsey: I heard she was in a car accident. Bad news travels fast.

More Examples

This excerpt is from an article about how companies should treat candidates for hiring.

  • Remember that old adage “bad news travels fast?” Well, “fast” has been replaced by “warp speed,” as social media has enabled anything to become viral and remain a few clicks away for eternity. –Forbes

This excerpt is from an article about the use of technology in schools.

  • “Reputation is definitely critical. Schools are a small world and people move around and talk to each other. Much of [our] growth has been thanks to referrals and word of mouth, but of course bad news travels fast too.” –The Guardian

Summary

The idiom bad news travels fast is another way to say people spread news about bad events very quickly.