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Understanding the Phrase: “Slow And Steady Wins The Race”

What does it mean?

Taking a slower, more consistent approach to a problem often leads to a better outcome.

For example: I tried to change everything about my diet in one day but only ended up feeling sick and cranky. If I want to make a lifestyle change, I need to remember that slow and steady wins the race. 

Similar Phrases: take it slow, slowly but surely

Where did this phrase come from?

This phrase likely originated in one of Aesop’s fables. This Greek storyteller lived around 620 to 560 B.C.E. One of his most famous stories is called The Tortoise and the Hare. The story begins with the hare making fun of the tortoise for moving so slowly. Then the tortoise challenges the hare to a race. The hare accepts the challenge, thinking there’s no way he could lose. When the race begins, the hare leaves the tortoise in the dust. 

The hare is so far in front of the tortoise that he decides to take a nap. The tortoise just keeps moving along at a slow and steady pace. Eventually, he passes the napping hare! The hare wakes up to see the tortoise about to finish the race. The hare runs as fast as he can to catch up, but it’s too late. The tortoise wins!

Therefore, the tortoise wins because he is persistent.

Helpful Examples

  • I started playing basketball because I wanted to dunk. When I fell down on my first try, I realized that I needed to focus on the basics first. Slow and steady wins the race.
  • I can’t afford a house right now, but I’m putting aside a little money each week. I’m saving up because I know that slow and steady wins the race

Related: Next, read our article on the common expression “no point crying over spilled milk.”

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By Patrice Riley

Patrice Riley is the pen name of Dr. Deborah Riley. She is a retired English professor that enjoys grammar, literature, and all things writing.

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