Let Bygones Be Bygones

Meaning of ‘Let Bygones Be Bygones’

This is an English phrase that is said when someone wants past problems to be forgotten about and they desire to go back to being on friendly terms.

Example: Rick usually has a cool temper, but yesterday I saw him snap at his employer. Now he is worried about losing his job because of what happened. This morning, however, his employer approached him and said: “I’m willing to let bygones be bygones this time around.” (In other words, he was willing to let go of what happened and forget about it.)
Synonyms / Related Phrases:
1. Bury the hatchet
2. Forgive and forget
3. Kiss and make up
the phrase - let bygones be bygones.

The Origin of ‘Let Bygones Be Bygones’

Before we talk about the origin of the phrase ‘let bygones be bygones,’ let us first touch briefly on what that word means. Indeed, what does “bygone” mean, anyway? It is something that is in the past, so it could be a person you used to know, an event that happened, or maybe an old memory. For example, let’s say you were having a conversation with someone and some old roommates you used to live with were brought up. If you didn’t want to talk about them, you might say: “I don’t want to talk about old bygones.”

According to Dictionary.com, the origin of the word “bygone” is somewhere between 1375-1425. Unfortunately, I could not find any examples of the word being used during those years. The earliest known appearance of it that I have seen is from the Shakespeare play The Winter’s Tale, 1611:

“The by-gone day proclaim’d: say this to him.”

What about the full phrase “let bygones be bygones”? Its first known use is in a work by Samuel Rutherford, 1636:

“Pray that byegones betwixt me and my Lord may be byegones.”

Since this expression dates back to 1636, that would make it, at minimum, 384 years old. A lot of phrases come and go in that amount of time, but this one has stuck around and is commonly used today.

Tip: If you want to find more old sayings similar to this one, Know Your Phrase has a list of phrases starting with “L” that you can browse through. Check it out!

Sentence Examples

  • We’ve had our differences in the past, but what do you say we let bygones be bygones?

Similar Examples:

  • Last night, we both said things out of anger, so how about we forgive and forget the whole thing and move on?
  • My friend and I went out separate ways after a heated argument we had years ago. Since then, he’s apologized so maybe it’s time we bury the hatchet.

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