All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

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"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" is a proverb that means that without time off from work, a person becomes both bored and boring. The exact origins of the phrase remain unclear, though it was recorded as early as 1659.


Though the spirit of the proverb had been expressed previously, the modern saying first appeared in James Howell's Proverbs (1659).[1][2] It has often been included in subsequent collections of proverbs and sayings.[3]

Some writers have added a second part to the proverb, as in Harry and Lucy Concluded (1825) by the Irish novelist Maria Edgeworth:

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,
All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy.

In popular culture[edit]

In Stanley Kubrick's film The Shining, the proverb is used to illustrate how the film's central figure, named Jack, has lost his mind when his wife discovers that he has written the sentence over and over again on hundreds of pages with a typewriter. Jack had been aiming to write a theatrical play, but instead wrote this proverb repeatedly using the formatting of the script (including its headings).

In Season 1, Episode 5 of Downton Abbey, Lady Mary and Matthew reference this line during the Best Blooms Exhibition.

In Season 5, Episode 27 of “The Office” Dwight references this line when talking to Michael Scott.


  1. ^ Howell, James (1659). Paroimiographia. Proverbs, or, old Sayed Sawes & Adages in English (or the Saxon Toung) Italian, French and Spanish whereunto the British, for their great antiquity and weight are added. London: Samuel Thomson. It is found on page 12 of the section titled Proverbs, or Old Sayed-Sawes, and Adages in the English Toung. Howell's Proverbs is bound with Howell's Lexicon Tetraglotton (1660).
  2. ^ Howell, James (1660). Lexicon Tetraglotton, an English-French-Italian-Spanish Dictionary. London: Samuel Thomson. : Whereunto is adjoined a large Nomenclature of the proper Terms (in all the four) belonging to several Arts and Sciences, to Recreations, to Professions both Liberal and Mechanick, &c. divided into Fiftie two Sections; with another Volume of the Choicest Proverbs in all the said Toungs, (consisting of divers compleat Tomes) ...
  3. ^ "James Howell Quotes and Quotations". Famous Quotes and Archived from the original on 15 December 2010. Retrieved 2011-01-21.