What Does By the Sweat of Your Brow Mean?

By the Sweat of Your Brow Meaning

Definition: Resulting from one’s hard work and efforts.

When you work very diligently at something physical, you will usually feel sweat start to drip down from your forehead, which is also called the brow. Therefore, if something comes about by the sweat of your brow, it has occurred because of your hard work.

By the sweat of one’s brow does not just refer to gains from physical work. It can also be a figurative statement describing the effort put into a mental task.

Origin of By the Sweat of Your Brow

sweat of the browThis phrase comes from early English translations of the Bible. The phrase appears in Genesis 3:19, which has been translated in several ways to describe effort put into work.

After eating forbidden fruit, Adam is told,

  • By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.

This shows that while Adam previously was given all the food he needed in the Garden of Eden, he will now be cast out and will have to work to find food to eat.

Examples of By the Sweat of Your Brow

by the sweat of his browPeople use this phrase to describe how someone will need to work for gains or to describe what the gains produced by someone’s work.

For example, saying that Mike’s paycheck comes by the sweat of his brow means that Mike puts forth a lot of effort in his career in order to earn his living.

In another example, if a child is growing a small garden, the child may be delighted to find flowers growing. It can be said that the flowers began growing by the sweat of the child’s brow.

More Examples

  • Whatever his shortcomings, America had allowed him to prosper by the sweat of his brow. –CNN
  • “For four decades she has not earned her keep by the sweat of her brow,” Fiorina said. –ABC


Something that comes by the sweat of one’s brow has been earned through diligent work.