Falling by the wayside, waist side, or waste side? Which is correct?

When using the phrase as a true idiom within the English language, the correct usage is “fall by the wayside”. While the word wayside is defined as “the land adjacent or side of a road or path”, to “fall by the wayside” means out of consideration.

Read on to learn the difference in the words and why you should always use “wayside” while describing events.

What is an idiom?

The technical definition of an idiom is a group of words that include words that cannot be deduced from their individual meaning. Raining cats and dogs, piece of cake, and killing two birds with one stone are all common idioms used within the English language.

Idioms have been commonly found throughout history. “Falling by the wayside” is one of the oldest idioms known to historians. Being first found within the Christian bible, in the story of the parable, it has been used frequently since the 15th and 16th centuries.

What does the idiom mean?

The idiom ‘falling by the wayside’ means to fail to persist in an undertaking or endeavor. You can use the phrase in various ways to describe a failing situation. Some examples of using this popular idiom are

He tried to keep up with his grades, but he soon fell by the wayside.
When Sara felt abused, her good manners fell to the wayside.
Inexperienced climbers always fall to the wayside when hiking up Mt. Everest.

All three of these sentences describe a situation where someone or something has either failed or given up. But the idiom is used in multiple different ways in the examples.

Way, Waist, or Waste

All three of these words have completely different meanings.  “Falling by the waist side” and “Falling by the waste side” are both incorrect and should not be used in English.

“Waist” is the word used to describe one’s middle section of their body. It is not commonly used in the form “waist side”, even without the idiom.

“Waste” is the English word meaning trash, or garbage. You would not use ‘waste side” for this idiom. You can put the ‘waste aside’ but you cannot “fall by the waste side”.