Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, idle hands are the devil’s tools, and idle hands are the devil’s playground are variations of a proverb that is quite old. A proverb is a short, common saying or phrase that may be a famous quote, an inspirational quote, an epigram, or the topic of a parable. These common sayings are language tools or figures of speech that particularly give advice or share a universal truth, or impart wisdom. Synonyms for proverb include adage, aphorism, sayings, and byword, which can also be someone or something that is the best example of a group. Often, a proverb is so familiar that a speaker will only quote half of it, relying on the listener to supply the ending of the written or spoken proverb himself because these common phrases and popular sayings are so well known. Certain phrases may be a metaphor or a quotation; but if it is a proverb, it is often-used and has a figurative meaning. Speakers of English as a second language are sometimes confused by these pithy sayings as translations from English to other languages do not carry the impact that the English phrases carry. Some common proverbs are the wise sayings better late than never; early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise; an apple a day keeps the doctor away; don’t cry over spilt milk; actions speak louder than words; haste makes waste, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth; and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. One of the books of the Bible is the Book of Proverbs, which contains words and phrases that are still often quoted in the English language because they are wise. Many current proverbs are quotations taken from literature, particularly Shakespeare, as well as the Bible and other sacred writings. We will examine the meaning of the proverbs idle hands are the devil’s workshop, idle hands are the devil’s tools, and idle hands are the devil’s playground, where the expressions came from, and some examples of their use in sentences.
The proverbs idle hands are the devil’s workshop, idle hands are the devil’s tools, and idle hands are the devil’s playground mean that someone who is unoccupied and bored will find mischief; someone who has nothing to do will partake in something that will get him into trouble. This maxim is often quoted concerning children and teenagers; children and teenagers who do not have responsibilities may find activities to take part in that are not constructive and do not meet with their parents’ or society’s approval. The proverbs idle hands are the devil’s workshop, idle hands are the devil’s tools, and idle hands are the devil’s playground are ascribed to the Bible; however, the phrase is not found anywhere in the Old Testament or New Testament. The earliest know iteration is in the writings of St. Jerome, in the 4th century: “Engage in some occupation, so that the devil may always find you busy.” Today, the version idle hands are the devil’s playground is by far the most popular; idle hands are the devil’s tools is the second most popular version; and idle hands are the devil’s workshop is the least popular version of the proverb. As with many proverbs and idioms, often the first few words are quoted, idle hands, with the assumption that the reader or listener can supply the rest of the quotation for himself.
Proving the adage that idle hands are the devil’s workshop, Greene has spent her time sabotaging the process of floor votes and delaying even the most mundane House business. (Washington Monthly)
That is not to justify crimes, but the English say that idle hands are the devil’s tools. (The Punch)
Coach Jeff Lynn said that “idle hands are the devil’s playground” when referring to the closure of school buildings and the discontinuation of in-person sports and school activities that took effect in March. (Roswell Daily Record)