Cut And Dried

Meaning of Idiom ‘Cut and Dried’

When something is cut and dried it is simple, clear, and unambiguous; fixed, and definite; already decided; predictable and usual.

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Examples Of Use

“Look,” said David to the new manager, “the problem is not so cut and dried as you think.”

“The law is cut and dried,” said the lawyer, “but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a case.”

“You act like getting elected is cut and dry, but public opinion can change on a dime.”


Used as early as the late 1700’s.

The most common explanation for the origin of this idiom is that it alludes to the already cut and dried herbs, ready to use and sold in shops, as opposed to fresh growing herbs. Some, however, believe it to allude to cut and dried pieces of wood. Others claim the idiom comes from jerky, where pieces of meat are cut into srips and dried.

Grass is also “cut and dried” to turn it into hay to use as fodder for cattle. It is also turned into standard bales or piles, where one looks very much like another. Tobacco, as well, is cut and dried. There are, in fact, so may items that are processed in this way that it hardly seems necessary to imagine only one specific origin for the expression.

The original meaning had the sense of “being ready for use.” For example: “The powder and shot was ready made up in cartridges; ready cut and dried, and a man had then time to think..” (Cobbet’s Parliamentary History of England)

Jonothan Swift used a version of the idiom in a 1730 poem about a boring speech (Source):

“Sets of phrases, cut and dry;
Evermore thy tongue supply;
And they memory is load
With old scraps from plays exploded;
Stok’d with repartees and jokes”

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