What Does Hindsight is 20 20 Mean?

Hindsight is 20 20 Meaning

Definition: Choices that seemed difficult in the past now seem clear after the person knows what happened as a result of those choices.

Origin of Hindsight is 20 20

This expression comes from the way people describe good vision. A person with normal, good vision has 20/20 sight. Hindsight is an understanding of a past event. The exact origin is unclear, but it likely began sometime around the mid-1900s.

Examples of Hindsight is 20 20

20 20 hindsightThis example shows two college students using the idiom after making a bad decision.

Frank: I can’t believe I got caught cheating on that quiz.

Karl: Yeah, I told you it was a bad idea! The quiz wasn’t worth that many points, and this school punishes cheaters harshly. You shouldn’t have cheated!

Frank: Well, obviously I know that now. Hindsight is 20/20.

Karl: Next time maybe you should listen to me.

define hindsight is 20 20In this example, two friends are talking about things they would change in their past, if they had the chance.

Lily: I wish I had studied to become a doctor. That was always my dream. I know my parents wanted me to become a lawyer like them, but that never made me happy.

Grace: Yeah, I have some pretty big regrets as well. I never should have married my first husband. I knew we had problems, but I thought we could work through them. In the end, the problems were just too big to overcome.

Lily: Do you think the lessons we learned from those bad experiences were worth it?

Grace: No. I’d rather go back and change my actions. If I knew then what I know now, I would never have done things the way I did. Hindsight is 20/20.

More Examples

The excerpt below is about a consumer who bought some products because of a specific promotion. However, the store failed to apply that promotion.

  • Anthony’s greatest challenge was proving he’d been offered the 48-month-long deferred interest promotion, as it was finalized by the sales rep via phone. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but written receipt of the promotion’s terms and conditions would likely have saved Anthony much time and anguish. –Chicago Tribune

This excerpt is about a bad decision that resulted in a baseball team losing the game.

  • “That stunk,” Bryant said. “It’s kind of frustrating because that could have changed the whole outcome of the game. … That’s a more comfortable lead for the pitchers. But hindsight is 20/20. They beat us.” –Chicago Tribune


The phrase hindsight is 20/20 emphasizes the clarity that people have about their past decisions, as opposed to the uncertainty before they make the decision.