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.". The phrase appears in the 3rd line of the song "Crumblin' Down" sung by John Cougar Mellencamp released: October 1983.


  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.