nothing ventured, nothing gained

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Attested since 1546 in a book of English proverbs by John Heywood (see quotation below). Perhaps translated from or influenced by French Qui onques rien n'enprist riens n'achieva (“One who never undertook anything never gained anything”). Though a translation, a similar phrase of "Nothing ventured, nothing have." appears in Sir George Dasent's translation of the Icelandic text "The Saga of the Burnt Njal" (events occurring between 960 and 1020 A.D.), suggesting it may have gone back much further.[1][2] However, certain translations of Herodotus 7.9 include "if nothing is ventured in life, then nothing is gained". Suggesting either the phrase or something similar stretches to even before 960AD.


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nothing ventured, nothing gained

  1. If one takes no risks, one will not gain any benefits.
    • 1546, John Heywood, A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the englishe tongue compacte in a matter concernyng two maner of mariages[1], The fyrste parte. The leuenth chapiter:
      Noght vēter noght haue spare to speke spare to spede
      Nothing venture, nothing have; spare to speak, spare success
    • 1842, E.S.J., “Julia Dayton: Or the power of truth over error”, in Universalist Union[2], page 609:
      Her husband was one of those unfortunate men, called speculators. He believed that to gain thousands, thousands must be put in jeopardy—“nothing ventured, nothing gained,” was his rule, and he practiced it to perfection.
    • 1944, W. Julian King, The Unwritten Laws of Engineering[3], page 22:
      Do not allow the danger of making a mistake to inhibit your initiative to the point of “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” It is much healthier to expect to make mistakes, take a few good risks now and then, and take your medicine when you lose.




  • Gregory Y. Titelman, Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings, 1996, →ISBN, p. 255.
  • Gary Martin (2019), “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”, in The Phrase Finder[4]