Fish In Troubled Waters

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Meaning of Idiom 'To Fish in Troubled Waters

To fish in troubled waters means to take advantage of unfortunate circumstances, confusion, difficulties, and problems in order to benefit oneself. 1,2


This expression can apply to widespread or general difficulties, such as war or political unrest, or to taking advantage of an individual's trouble.

Examples Of Use

"The newly elected leader, during his entire term, was busy fishing in troubled waters. He deliberately sewed economic chaos in order to benefit from the stock market upheavals."

"He habitually fished in troubled waters to build his real estate empire. Other people's foreclusures were his opportunities."


Based on the longheld notion that fish bite more when the seas are rough, this idiom was first seen in print in 1568. 2

1. Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.
2. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

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