What Does Left to My Own Devices Mean?

Left to My Own Devices Meaning

Definition: To leave someone unsupervised to do whatever they want.

This expression appears with many other words than my.

  • Left to one’s own devices.
  • Left to your own devices.
  • Left to their own devices.
  • Left to our own devices.
  • Left to its own devices.

Origin of Left to My Own Devices

The word device comes from the verb devise. Nowadays this verb means to plan. However, its original meaning was to desire. Therefore, the literal meaning is that a person is free to do what one pleases.

Sometimes people use this expression to imply that a person left alone, who is free to do what they want, will do something bad.

This likely comes from the connotation of devise, which means to plot. The best way to tell if a person is using this expression to imply doing something bad is through context.

The phrase itself comes from the late 19th century.

Examples of Left to My Own Devices

left to own devices In the first example, two employees are talking together about what to do while the boss was gone.

Marcus: Hey, Patsy! The boss is out sick today. There’s no one here to supervise us! What should we do, since we’ve been left to our own devices?

Patsy: Hmmm. I don’t know. I guess I’ll just try to get my work done as fast as I can.

Marcus: That’s not fun at all. I was thinking we could build a fort out of office chairs.

Patsy: You do whatever you want, but what I want to do is get my work done.

when left to my own devices In the second example, a brother and sister are discussing their children.

Samson: Angela, didn’t you bring Jackson over here with you? Where did he go?

Angela: He went up to the attic to play by himself.

Samson: Are you sure it’s a good idea to leave him to his own devices like that?

Angela: Of course. He loves alone time. He uses it to draw some pretty cool designs. He’s old enough that it’s perfectly safe. Don’t you ever leave your kid to her own devices?

Samson: No, never. I tried it once and she cut off all of her hair.

Angela: Well, she’s still pretty young.

More Examples

This quote is from a member of the band Bad Religion.

  • “I can remember when we were on another label and making records felt like a contractual obligation,” he says of the band’s five years on Atlantic Records. “Check writers would come in and they don’t care what you’re doing, they’re just like: ‘Is there a single? We don’t hear a single.’ We don’t make ‘singles’ – we make albums. Now, though, I feel like a mad scientist in a laboratory who has been left to his own devices and we’re all in there like ‘oh my God, wait ’til they hear this!’ It’s fantastic.” –OC Register

This excerpt is about a college student who initially didn’t think he could go to college, when he was all on his own.

  • Homeless kids with no expectations don’t go to college. And truth be told, it wasn’t on DeSilva’s radar when he found himself left to his own devices, sink or swim, starve or not. But the Posse Foundation identifies potential diamonds from rough circumstances and sends them there, with a total count of more than 6,000 since it began with a handful of students in New York in 1989. –Houston Chronicle


The expression left to one’s own devices means left alone to do as one pleases.