No good deed goes unpunished

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The phrase 'No good deed goes unpunished' is a sardonic commentary on the frequency with which acts of kindness backfire on those who offer them. In other words, those who help others are doomed to suffer as a result of their being helpful.

It has been attributed to several luminaries, including Billy Wilder,[1] writer Clare Booth Luce, American financier John P. Grier, banker Andrew W. Mellon,[2] and Oscar Wilde, although its actual origin has never been established. The phrase appears in Brendan Gill's 1950 book The Trouble of One House.[3] The phrase is featured prominently in the song "No Good Deed" from the hit Broadway musical Wicked.[4] A satirical poem by Franklin Pierce Adams with the title, "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished (So Shines a Good Deed in a Naughty World)", also exists. In the fictional Star Trek universe, the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, the 285th rule states that "No good deed ever goes unpunished.".


  1. ^ "". Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  2. ^ "The Phrase Finder". Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  3. ^ Gill, Brendan (1950). The Trouble of One House. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc. p. 28. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  4. ^ "My Routine: Christine Dwyer, actress". Courier-Journal. September 14, 2012. Retrieved 15 October 2012.