All Is Fair In Love And War: Idiomatic Meaning, Origin and Easy Examples

The saying “all is fair in love and war” is a common one when thinking about the English language. You are likely to hear this phrase regularly throughout your life in many conversations. But what does this saying mean and where did it come from?

All Is Fair In Love And War

All Is Fair In Love And War Meaning

The term “all is fair in love and war” refers to a situation where there are no rules or where people are not abiding by the usual rules that are set out. The phrase talks about the comparison of these types of situations to love and war, because in the situations of war and love, the rules are usually not fair or are not adhered to. It simply talks about a situation where the play is not fair but this issue is ignored and cheating is overlooked.

Origin of this idiom

This phrase was first used in 1579 in a text written by a man named John lyly although it was worded slightly different yet had the same meaning. The exacting wording of “all is fair in love and war” can first be found in the novel “Frank Fairleigh” which was written in the late 1800s.

“All Is Fair In Love And War” Examples

This phrase could be used to describe a situation in the workplace, for example if a particular employee seems to be constantly favored by the boss and is always getting perks, this may seem unfair but there aren’t any rules about it so you might use the saying “all is fair in love and war”.

It could also be used to talk about your reaction to an unfair situation where someone has done wrong by you and so you then retaliate with an equally wrong action, whilst it may not be the right thing to do “all is fair in love and war”.

Conversation examples:

The phrase can be used in a variety on conversation, some of which might play out a little like the examples below.

Conversation 1:

  • Person 1: I am so angry at the way John treated me, so I decided to play him at his own game.
  • Person 2: Well it might not be right but all is fair in love and war.

Conversation 2:

  • Person 1: I really want to date that girl but she has a boyfriend.
  • Person 2: Why not try to woo her anyway?
  • Person 1: That wouldn’t be fair on her partner.
  • Person 2: Well all is fair in love and war.

Other Ways to Say the Phrase

There are, as with most idioms, other ways you can express the meaning of all is fair in love and war, some of these might be;

  • The rules of fair play do not apply in love and war.
  • In love and war, there are no rules
  • Unfair behaviour is allowed in some situation
  • In war, usual rules are broken

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