What Does “Even A Broken Clock Is Right Twice A Day” Mean?

Meaning Of “Even A Broken Clock Is Right Twice A Day”

In everyday English, the phrase “even a broken clock is right twice a day” means that even if someone or something is considered unreliable, they/it can be right on occasion. However, if used reciprocally, it can also be used to say that even though something/someone was correct, it/they are not usually reliable.

It is also important to note that you can find the phrase slightly altered to say “even a stopped clock is right twice a day” in some dialects or older texts. However, don’t worry, as these differences do not change its underlying message, and the phrase still holds the same meaning.

A graphic of a clock and an explanation of the phrase "Even a broken clock is right twice a day"

Examples Of The Phrase Being Used

The last time I had a really hard biology assignment, I asked almost everyone I knew for help. Eventually, out of sheer desperation, I asked my friend, who knows nothing about biology. Even though I was pessimistic about his answer, he was right. I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day.

When I had issues with my plumbing system. My friend, who knew nothing about plumbing, told me what she thought was wrong with it. After consulting a real professional, it turns out she was right! Although I still don’t think I’ll go to her with my future plumbing problems, I have to admit that even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Where Did The Phrase Come From?

With the saying, it is clear that a broken clock or even a clock that is stopped will not be able to properly tell time. With this, the clock would be considered unreliable, as pointed at with the phrase. However, a broken clock whose minute and hour hands are stopped will still tell time right twice a day, as they will be stuck on the correct time, one in the morning and once at night. Over time, people began to use comparison to show that even something unreliable will sometimes still be right.

It is also interesting that this phrase is very old and can be traced back to a British periodical called  “The Spectator,” published by Richard Steel and Joseph Addison” where the phrase first appeared in 1711.

A graphic of the Big Ben and a text that says" The phrase first appeared in a British periodical "The Spectator" in 1711", and the quote: "“If instead of running after the mode, they would continue fixed in one certain habit, the mode would come time or other overtake them, as a clock that stands still is sure to point right once in twelve hours.”

This alone should show just how popular and engrained this phrase is in English, which is why you need to know its meaning!

Examples From The Media

“If K.S.M. did throw some real information in with the junk he gave us then that only proves the adage that even a broken clock is right twice a day.” ― The New Yorker

“It’s the one area where Trump has kinda, sorta delivered,” said Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Open Markets Institute, which studies corporate consolidation and power.

Examples From Literature

“Nothing is completely wrong, even a broken clock is right twice a day.” ― Pablo Coelho

Whenever I appeared to have won an argument, Mom would say something like, ‘Even broken clocks are right twice a day.” ― Tammara Webber, Easy

“Even a North American defense lawyer is right sometimes,” Aguilar says. “Like a broken clock, twice a day.” ― Don Winslow, The Cartel

Further reading:

“Go To Hell In A Handbasket” – Meaning And Examples

A Bird In The Hand (Is Worth Two In The Bush)

What Does “Come To Bear” Mean?


 

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