If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

Meaning:

If something is functioning properly, it’s probably best to just leave it alone and not make any changes that could potentially break it.

Example: Nora was not happy with her current weight. She wanted to lose some pounds, but she had trouble sticking to a new diet. Finally, she committed to one and eventually got the results she wanted. She was pleased about this. However, now she wants to change her diet again, but she’s worried that doing so will cause her to gain weight. A friend advised her that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

In other words, if Nora’s diet has been working fine until now, then why make changes that could potentially mess it up?

Synonyms / Related Phrases:
Leave well enough alone

The Origin Of “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It”

Bert Lance was someone who worked for President Jimmy Carter as Director of the Office of Management and Budget in the year 1977. He is credited as being the one who popularized this phrase. He was quoted as saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” in the May 1977 issue of a magazine called Nation’s Business.

Of note, according to The Phrase Finder, there’s a Texas newspaper known as The Big Spring Herald from 1976 that also has this expression in it:

“We would agree with the old Georgia farmer who said his basic principle was ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ “

From what I could tell, this phrase does not appear in print before the 1970s. To me, this would suggest it originated around that time and is thus not very old. During that decade, the phrase clearly started to take off in terms of use. And today, it has become a common term to hear.


Example Sentences

Here’s how this expression might be used in a conversation:

“Hey, Jim. What do you think of this idea? For the Summer, I was thinking of replacing my sprinklers in the front lawn. They still work decently, but it’s just, I want newer ones, you know? What do you think?”

“The sprinklers you already have do a fine job at watering your lawn. I say if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”


Note: There are many idiomatic expressions on this site. If you do not know what that means, that’s okay. We actually have several examples of idioms for you look at if you want to learn about them. On that page, the examples are made simple. But if you already know about them, well, this isn’t the only idiom on this site. There’s hundreds of more you can read about. Just use the menu at the top. It’ll take you to a list.