Meaning and Usage of “Hope for The Best Prepare for The Worst”

If you’ve ever had to bunker down during a natural disaster or prepare for a long winter, you’ve heard the term “hope for the best and prepare for the worst.” This means that you want the situation to go well, but you’ll be prepared if it goes badly.

Origin of Hope for The Best Prepare for The Worst

The term was originally the other way around, reading as “prepare for the worst but hope for the best.” The book The Wondrous Tale of Alroy by Benjamin Disraeli was published in 1833 and uses the phrase in chapter three. This is believed by many to be the first instance of the words.

A similar quote is from the poet Maya Angelou. “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.” She likely knew the beginning from popular colloquialisms and added the rest herself.

There are many literary texts where the phrase appears, but historians can’t decide on the original usage. Back in the day, it was common to trade phrases from other languages, other writers, and even slaves.

Meaning of Hope for The Best Prepare for The Worst

When you hope for the best but prepare for the worst, you’re choosing to hope the situation will end in your favor while actively preparing for the worst possible outcome.

An example of this is preparing for a hurricane. You hope the storm will pass over, and there will be no damage (this is the best-case scenario). However, you still prepare for the possibility your house and belongings could be destroyed by evacuating safely, battening down the hatches, and securing anything loose in the house. This is the worst-case scenario.

It doesn’t have to be for an inevitable, looming threat. You can also apply this to road trips. You hope everything will go well and you’ll arrive at your destination smoothly, but just in case your car breaks down, you pack extra water bottles and snacks, flares, and a car jack.

It’s important not to lose control of your “preparedness.” Being overly prepared or cautious can harm your health and lead to paranoia. It’s how you go from having extra non-perishables on hand to building a nuclear fall-out shelter stocked with military rations.

Similar Phrases to Hope for The Best Prepare for The Worst

  • Expect the best but be ready for the worst
  • Stay positive but remain cautious
  • Look ahead without fear but remember potential dangers

Opposite Phrases to Hope for The Best Prepare for The Worst

  • Don’t worry, be happy
  • Throwing caution to the wind
  • Nothing matters, and consequences aren’t real
  • Live life recklessly
  • Expect the worst at all times


The term “hope for the best prepare for the worst” is thought to have originated in a novel titled The Wondrous Tale of Alroy in the 1830s. No one can prove this for sure, but we know the phrase has been used numerous times in media culture and literary sources.