What Does Strike While the Iron is Hot Mean?

Strike While the Iron is Hot Meaning

Definition: To take action when there is a good opportunity or favorable circumstances.

Origin of Strike While the Iron is Hot

This expression refers to blacksmithing. A blacksmith must hit the iron (or other metal) when it is hot in order to shape it.

This idiom has existed in English since at least the 1500s. We find early examples in Chaucer, John Lyly, and many early English authors. The expression itself dates back to ancient times.

Examples of Strike While the Iron is Hot

strike while the iron is hot originHere is an example of two family members using the expression while at home.

Grandmother: Wake up!

Granddaughter: What’s wrong?

Grandmother: Let’s go fishing!

Granddaughter: Are you serious? It’s 4 o’clock in the morning!

Grandmother: I know. That’s the best time to go fishing. I was just out on the lake, and I already caught a giant fish! Come on. We’ve got to strike while the iron is hot.

Granddaughter: What do you mean?

Grandmother: I mean the conditions are perfect for fishing right now, so we have to take advantage of the situation!

Granddaughter: Fine. Okay, I’ll get ready.

strike while the iron is hot meaningThe second dialogue shows a daughter explaining her good luck at school.

Father: Hello! How was your day at school today?

Daughter: It was great! One of the students on the debate team got really sick and had to go to the hospital.

Father: That doesn’t sound good! That sounds awful!

Daughter: Well, it was awful for him, but good for me! Without him on the team, I was able to volunteer to take his place! I had to strike while the iron was hot. If I want to get into one of the best universities, I need to have more extracurricular activities.

More Examples

This excerpt uses the expression to talk about political candidates.

  • The same strike-while-the-iron-is-hot logic applies to the candidates themselves, especially the ones who fancy themselves as leading movements waging war against their parties’ establishments. –New York Daily News

This excerpt is about an Olympic athlete getting good publicity during the most lucrative time.

  • Phelps’ big challenge is that the Olympic offseason lasts four years, and his handlers must strike while the iron is hot. Phelps has said he will compete in the 2012 Olympics in London. –New York Daily News


The phrase strike while the iron is hot means to take advantage of an opportunity when it appears.