What Does Half a Loaf is Better Than None Mean?

Half a Loaf is Better Than None Meaning

Definition: Something is better than nothing. Having a little of something is better than having nothing at all.

Origin of Half a Load is Better Thank None

This expression was in common use by at least the year 1546. In that year, it appeared in John Heywood’s collection of English proverbs. However, it initially had slightly different wording, for better is half a loaf than no bread.

The idea behind this idiom is that if you were starving, obviously you would want a full loaf of bread to abate your hunger. However, if your only options were to have half a loaf of bread or no bread at all, of course you would choose to eat half a loaf.

G.K. Chesterton repeats the phrase in his essay What’s Wrong with the World:

  • Compromise used to mean that half a load was better than no bread. Among modern statesmen it really seems to mean that half a load is better than a whole loaf.

Examples of Half a Load is Better Thank None

half a loaf is better than non originIn the following example, two friends are discussing the picnic they had initially planned for the day.

Kerry: Oh no! I just heard thunder!

Christine: Are you sure? The forecast didn’t call for rain today.

Kerry: I’m sure. And it’s starting to pour. The picnic we planned is ruined. I might as well throw out all of this food that we made.

Christine: Whoa, whoa, whoa! Why would you throw out the food?

Kerry: It’s raining, so we can’t have the picnic.

Christine: But we can still eat the food. We’ll just have an indoor picnic.

Kerry: That’s just a normal meal.

Christine: Still, half a loaf is better than none.

half a loaf is better than nothingIn this dialogue, two friends are talking about a date that one of them went on.

Arlena: How was your date last night?

Nyima: It wasn’t that great. He promised he would do something special for my birthday, but in the end all he did was take me out for dinner and a movie. It wasn’t really special at all.

Arlena: At least he remembered your birthday. My husband totally forgot mine. Half a loaf is better than no bread.

More Examples

The example below is from an article about a man who sells baseball cards.

  • The card was literally torn in half. I saw it in a rare coin store and paid the guy $5,000 for it and then advertized it in Sports Collectors Digest as ‘half a loaf is better than none’. Sure enough, somebody paid me $10,000 for it! –New York Daily News

This excerpt is about the importance of compromising.

  • When President Ronald Reagan was asked why he settled for a 5 percent tax cut in 1981 when he had proposed cutting taxes by twice as much, he answered: “Half a loaf is better than none.” –New York Post


The phrase half a loaf is better than none means something is always better than nothing.