What's done is done

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"What's done is done" is an idiom in English, usually meaning something along the line of: the consequence of a situation is now out of your control, that is, "there's no changing the past, so learn from it and move on."

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]


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]


  1. ^ "What does "what's done is done" mean?". Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company (via yourdictionary.com). Archived from the original on April 15, 2013. 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. doi:10.1093/eic/XXVII.3.259. 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