What Does Build a Better Mousetrap Mean?

Build a Better Mousetrap Meaning

Definition: To create a higher quality version of a widely used product.

Origin of Build a Better Mousetrap

This particular expression is part of a longer saying, if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.

Although this saying is attributed to the American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, he did not use these exact words. His original statement was if a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods. It originated in the 1880s.

Examples of Build a Better Mousetrap

define build a better mousetrapTwo young women use the expression while discussing an idea for an invention.

Cassie: Hey! I had an idea that could make us millions!

Rebecca: Okay. What is it?

Cassie: High heeled shoes.

Rebecca: That’s already a very popular thing.

Cassie: I know, but our high heels will have adjustable heels. You can adjust the height!

Rebecca: I don’t know how popular that will be.

Cassie: If you build a better mousetrap…

Rebecca: I just feel like engineers might find it more interesting than fashionistas.

Cassie: Fine. I’ll invent it by myself.

meaning of if you build a better mousetrapIn the below dialogue, two friends discuss a new idea.

Antonio: I have an idea for how to build a better mousetrap.

Igor: Okay. What is it?

Antonio: Well, you know how I’m always losing my phone? Lots of other people lose their phones, too! What if the phone was connected to a line in your house, attached to a wall?

Igor: This is the opposite of a better mousetrap. You are talking about a landline. That’s what everyone had before they had cell phones. No one will want to go back to using his or her landlines.

Antonio: It does sound familiar, now that you mention it. I’ll keep thinking of other ideas.

More Examples

In the below article, a company representative says that his company’s product is the best. Therefore, they don’t have to worry about competition.

Conrad said he isn’t worried about the market becoming over-saturated.

  • “We believe that because we build a better mousetrap, we win,” Conrad said. –Detroit Free Press

This article excerpt describes progress in research.

  • “You want them to change over time if there is better data available that can make a more informed statement — that’s progress,” Dr. Greenhawt said. “That’s why taxpayer dollars fund N.I.H. research – to push the envelope, to build a better mousetrap, to find a better answer to a question.” –New York Times


To build a better mousetrap is to make an innovative improvement of something that already exists.