make ends meet

Idioms & Phrases

make ends meet

Manage so that one's financial means are enough for one's needs, as in On that salary Enid had trouble making ends meet. This expression originated as make both ends meet, a translation from the French joindre les deux bouts (by John Clarke, 1639). The ends, it is assumed, allude to the sum total of income and expenditures. However, naval surgeon and novelist Tobias Smollett had it as "make the two ends of the year meet" (Roderick Random, 1748), thought to go back to the common practice of splicing rope ends together in order to cut shipboard expenses.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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