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. He was worried about losing his job over what happened, but this morning the employer told him: “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.
Similar Phrases: bury the hatchet, forgive and forget, kiss and make up
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 this word and what it means. Indeed, what does the word “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 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, during my search I was unable to find any examples of this word being used in those years. From what I could find, the word’s earliest known appearance is in 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”? It’s 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 384 years old. Lots of phrases come and go in that amount of time. However, this one remains and it still is commonly used today.
Tip: Did you like reading about this term? If you want to find more old sayings like this, Know Your Phrase has a list of phrases starting with “L” that you may want to consider looking at.
- I know we’ve had our differences in the past, but what do you say we let bygones be bygones and work together on this assignment?
- We both said things that we regret last night. However, today is a new day, so maybe we should forgive and forget the whole thing and move on?
- I haven’t seen one of my friends in years. We went our separate ways after a heated disagreement, but he’s apologized since then so maybe it’s time we bury the hatchet.