a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

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Calque of Latin plus valet in manibus avis unica quam dupla silvis (a bird in the hands is worth more than two in the forest), possibly deriving from sources as old as the ancient Middle East, with the 6th century BCE Proverbs of Ahiqar including "a sparrow in thy hand is better than a thousand sparrows flying".[1]


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a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

  1. A sure thing is preferable to the mere chance at something more. [15th c.]
    • 15th c., John Capgrave, Life of St Katherine, Bodleian MS Rawlinson poet. 118, Bk. II:
      It is more sykyr a bryd in youre fyste
      Than to have thre in the sky above

      And more profitabyl to youre behove.
    • 1737, Henry Fielding, Pasquin, Act II, Scene I, p. 27:
      May. No, but the Sides are going to be changed ; and Sir Harry is to be ſome very great Man ; and as ſoon as he is, I am to be made an Embaſſador of.
      Mrs. May. Made an Aſs of! Will you never learn of me, that a Bird in the Hand is worth two in the Buſh ?
    • 1864, William W. Story, “The Campagna”, in Roba Di Roma, volume II, page 8:
      [An] acquaintance ... proposed to pay a ... proportion of the cost of the cellar provided he should have as his own everything of value that might be found [excavating]. A bird in the hand, thought Bardolph, is worth two in the bush, so he ... accepted the proposal.



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