Idioms: Have One’s Cake and Eat it Too


To have one’s cake and eat it too is a popular English idiom meaning one can’t use something up and still have it to enjoy. Sometimes stated as eat one’s cake and have it too, the phrase is similar to, “you can’t have it both ways” and “you can’t have the best of both worlds.”

The phrase’s earliest recording is from John Heywood’s ‘A dialogue Conteinyng the Nomber in Effect of All the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue’ in 1546 – “wolde you bothe eate your cake, and have your cake?”.  In 1633, George Herbert reworked the phrase for his poem “The Size” published in the book “The Temple.” It is also mentioned in the 1742 ‘Colonial Records of Georgia’ in ‘Original Papers, 1735-1752.’

A similar French expression  is: vouloir le beurre et l’argent du beurre, meaning literally wanting the butter and the money for the butter.  The expression vuoi la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca (“you want your bottle full of wine and your wife drunk”) is used in Italy with an equivalent meaning.

(, Random House Dictionary of America’s Popular Proverbs and Sayings)