Measure Twice, Cut Once

This phrase means “think before you act.” says

While the expression measure twice, cut once is an English proverb, the Russian proverb is measure seven times, cut once. But in the book “A Collection of Gaelic Proverbs and Familiar Phrases Based On MacIntosh’s Collection” (1785), it states that the idiom is based on the older Gaelic expression: Better measure short of seven, than spoil all at once. For those who familiar with kilts, a kilt for a grown man takes seven yards and so it’s easy to see why it would be important to measure the yardage twice lest an unfortunate situation arise.

Even earlier, Benvenuto Cellini wrote in 1558…

we must mark seven times and cut once,

which hardly seems like instructions to Scottish tailors. has a reference from John Florio in Second Frutes (1591), Alwaies measure manie, before you cut anie, or measure many times.

Whichever source you prefer, clearly in modern times we are becoming impatient, willing to only measure twice.

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About Ponderer

Ponderer also writes science fiction and science-inspired rhyming poetry. Check her out at She worked at Rocky Flats for 22 years - you may know her as Kathy London.

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