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Phrases and Idioms
There are times where it is more beneficial to teach someone a specific skill, one
that can permanently fill a need they have, over just handing them a temporary
solution to a problem. That's a lesson the full version of this proverb brings out: If you give a hungry man a fish, you'll have fed him for a single day; that's a short-term solution. However, if you were to teach the man how to fish, he would be able to feed himself for his lifetime!

This phrase is at least 120 years old, as it can be found in writings from the mid to late 19th century. Sometime during the 1880s, a writer named Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie wrote the saying down in a novel of hers called Mrs. Dymond:

"He certainly doesn't practise his precepts, but I supposed the Patron meant that if you give a man a fish
he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn."

Anne Ritchie is credited as the one who coined this phrase.
Common Phrases, Sayings, and Idioms Home > G-Letter Expressions
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Note: The definitions for sayings can be found with ease, but finding the origins of phrases proves far more challenging. Looking back through history, it's tough to find the place or person in which a phrase has its roots. We are limited to what can be found in writings, such as books, poems, newspapers, and plays. Often times, phrases will be quoted from century old newspapers, or from plays that were done in the 17th century by playwrights like William Shakespeare.

The phrases that are quoted are likely already commonly known, and have their origins elsewhere. For instance, just because an idiom shows up in a newspaper from 1850, does not mean the idiom originated from that newspaper. However, what that does tell you, is that the phrase was being used since 1850, so its origins are at least more than 150 years old.
* My friend, Brian, did not know how to drive, so instead of giving the man a fish by driving him around town every day, I decided to teach Brian how to operate a vehicle on the road safely so he can take himself places without me!
The meaning of the phrase Give a Man a Fish.
Origins pic for this idiom.
It's more benfifical in the long run to teach a person how to do something than to
do that something for them.