What's done is done

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"What's done is done" is an idiom in English.

The expression uses the word "done" in the sense of "finished" or "settled", a usage which dates back to the first half of the 15th century.[1]

Meaning[edit]

It usually means something along the line of: the consequence of a situation (which was once within your control), is now out of your control, that is, "there's no changing the past, so learn from it and move on."

Etymology[edit]

One of the first-recorded uses of this phrase was by the character Lady Macbeth in Act 3, Scene 2 of the tragedy play Macbeth (early 17th century), by the English playwright William Shakespeare, who said: "Things without all remedy Should be without regard: what's done, is done"[2] and "Give me your hand. What's done cannot be undone. – To bed, to bed, to bed!"[3]

Shakespeare did not coin the phrase; it may actually be a derivative of the early 14th-century French proverb: Mez quant ja est la chose fecte, ne peut pas bien estre desfecte, which is translated into English as "But when a thing is already done, it cannot be undone".[4][better source needed] Some scholars have suggested that Shakespeare may have learned some version of the expression from a classical source, such as Sophocles, or more likely a Latin translation of his work.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "What does "what's done is done" mean?". Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company (via yourdictionary.com). Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  2. ^ "What's Done is Done – Shakespeare Quotes". eNotes. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  3. ^ "Macbeth: Act 5, Scene 1, Page 3". SparkNotes. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  4. ^ Bruce, Elyse (June 29, 2010). "What's Done Is Done". Idiomation. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  5. ^ Harvey, John (1977). "A note on Shakespeare and Sophocles". Essays in Criticism. 27 (3): 259–270. Thus the choric lament in Ajax [...] 'these things could not become so as not to be as they are' resembles the thought that rings through Macbeth, epitomizing the tragedy [...] There is some distance between the Greek formulation and the English, but the intricacy of the Greek is simplified in the Latin translations precisely to a pithy play of done-undone, facta-infecta