What Does Grin and Bear It Mean?

Grin and Bear It Meaning

Definition: To handle a problem or difficult situation with forbearance.

Origin of Grin and Bear It

The definition of grin is to smile broadly. However, it comes from the Old English grinnian, which means to show one’s teeth in pain or anger.

One of the definitions of bear is endure.

Given those definitions, the idiom makes sense. One should try to deal with a difficult situation with a good attitude, regardless of how long the situation lasts or how painful it is.

An early use of the phrase can be found in Erasmus Darwin’s Zoonomia from 1794:

  • We have a proverb where no help could be had in pain, ‘to grin and abide.’”

Even earlier yet, W. Hickey used the phrase is his Memoirs from 1775:

  • I recommend you to grin and bear it (an expression used by sailors after a long continuance of bad weather).

An alternative expression was grin and abide, although this version is no longer common.

Examples of Grin and Bear It

grin and bear it meaningIn the example below, two siblings are at a high school reunion.

Jordan: That’s it. I can’t stay here any longer. High-school reunions are supposed to be fun, but this is the worst experience. None of my old friends are here. On the contrary, it seems like only the people who hated me showed up.

James: If you leave now, they’ll have won. You need to show them you’re strong and that you don’t care what they think. The reunion will be over in two more hours. Try to grin and bear it just a little longer.

Jordan: I guess you’re right. I’ll do my best to deal with these awful people as long as I can.

bear and grin itIn the second dialogue, two coworkers are complaining about their work.

Job: I’m so tired. This job is exhausting.

Melissa: I know, but it will look great on your resume. If you tough it out another six months, you’ll be able to find a much better job with ease.

Job: I know. I suppose I’ll just have to grin and bear it until then.

More Examples

This excerpt is about a coach who has cancer, and the advice she gives her players.

  • “I think of every thing I have told the girls. Every time they come in and they’re tired and sore we tell them to grin and bear it. It is not going to get better if you have a negative attitude. I have tried to have the same attitude. The more positive I am the easier it is going to be, the faster I will recover and the better I will feel.” –Houston Chronicle

The second quote is from an article about one of the major airlines in the United States.

  • “Makes me want to seriously rethink using United for future trips to China,” he wrote in an email, “but since they are one of the primary carriers to the nation that is (the) focus of my academic research, I’m forced to grin and bear it.” –Houston Chronicle


The saying grin and bear it means deal with an issue by tolerating it, despite its difficulty.