What Does Cross That Bridge When You Come to It Mean?

Cross That Bridge When You Come to It Meaning

Definition: Solve that problem when it arises.

Origin of Cross That Bridge When You Come to It

To understand this idiom, imagine every difficulty you have as a river. To solve the problem, you must cross that river by going over an old bridge in disrepair.

And because there are many problems on life’s journey, you will have to cross many dangerous bridges. However, it won’t help you to stress out about all of these bridges at once. It’s better to focus on each one as it approaches.

In other words, you will deal with a problem (crossing a bridge) once it arises.

This idiom first appeared in writing in the year 1851 in the work titled The Golden Legend by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The full line was, Don’t cross the bridge till you come to it, is a proverb old and of excellent wit.

This suggests that the proverb was already known at that time.

Examples of Cross That Bridge When You Come to It

cross that bridge when you come to it origin In this dialogue, a brother and sister are talking about all the problems the brother is experiencing.

Maria: What’s the matter? You look very concerned.

Franco: I feel stressed because my boss hasn’t paid me for the past month of work.

Maria: That’s awful! Did you ask him to pay you?

Franco: No, because I don’t want him to fire me. And if he refuses, then I don’t have the money to pay a lawyer to get my unpaid wages back from him.

Maria: Cross that bridge when you come to it. First, remind him to pay you. Deal with that first. There’s no sense in worrying about something that may or may not happen.

cross the bridge when it comes The second example shows two university students who are talking about the worries they have regarding their schedule for the next year.

Lorenzo: I wish I could sign up for classes earlier. I’m worried that all my required courses will be full before I have a chance to register. And if that happens, I won’t graduate on time. If I don’t graduate on time, I’ll be behind schedule on my life plan! This could disrupt the entire rest of my life!

Alba: Cross that bridge when you come to it. First, focus on trying to enroll in as much as you can. If you can’t get into every class you need, then you’ll find some other solution. However, it won’t do you any good to worry about that right now.

More Examples

The excerpt below is from an article about a coach with cancer.

  • Taylor says he’s had general conversations with Myers and has told Snyder, “I hope you coach here as long as you want, and we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” –USA Today

This excerpt is about a tax audit.

  • “Again, we’ll cross that bridge when it comes to it,” Spicer said last month. “But the President has been very clear throughout the campaign and consistent that he’s under a routine audit.” –USA Today


The phrase cross that bridge when you come to it is another way to say deal with one issue at a time.