World is your Oyster
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The World Is Your Oyster

Have you ever come across this phrase, maybe you are studying English literature and this has been in one of the texts you are reading. The world is your oyster certainly makes an appearance in Shakespeare’s works. Maybe you have been set the question in school to define what “the world is your oyster” means, or you are just curious to where this popular English idiom came from. We have all these answers below.

The idiom ”the world is your oyster” originates from the Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare, it acknowledges the start of new challenges that may, with hard work and effort, result in rewards. It uses oysters being difficult to open, but with the chance of finding a pearl inside as a metaphor for life.

As it’s such a motivational thing to say to people we have also put the idiom ‘the world is your oyster” on some images for you to print of and stick in your room, or classroom if you want to inspire yourself, your students or anyone else.

We also have a list of the 50 most common idioms in English to help you learn some of these common sayings and phrases as well.

the World is your Oyster

Where Does The World is Your Oyster Come From?

The phrase the world is your oyster, (it can be the world is my oyster – if you say it yourself of course) is first seen in the Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare. The Shakespearean quote is below, and is worded little differently to the phrase we use today. (Many Shakespearean quotes have been mixed up and adapted throughout the years.

Why, then the worlds mine oyster, which i with sword shall open.

Pistol / William Shakespeare.

As you can see the original intent is not particular inspirational! It is a character threatening a Merry Wife of Windsor with violence! he wants to crack her open to get the pearl inside. In this case her money.

What Does ”The World is Your Oyster” Mean?

Over the years the original meaning and wording has changed and evolved into ”the world is your oyster” and has a much less violent meaning. Now if you say it to someone you are not threatening them for their money (we hope!), you are wishing them well on their change, or their journey through life.

It is an acknowledgement of embarking on a new challenge that with hard work and effort may result in great reward at the end. it uses oysters as the journey through life as they take time and effort to open, and the pearl as the reward for that hard work and effort.

It is usually said to younger people, or at times of change. it signifies that good things lay ahead. For example Young sports people often have it said about them. “Chase Elliott is only 26 the world is his oyster!” It means they could go on to do great things

However, as not all oysters have pearls, and there is no way of knowing ( in Shakespearean times at least) if there is a pearl inside it also suggest that despite the hard work and effort needed to journey through life, there is also a little luck needed as well.

Is The World is your Oyster an Idiom?

An idiom is a phrase or group of words that is meaning is not instantly clear. it is often more figurative use of language than literal. In many cases an idioms, meaning is difficult to understand without some contextual cues. Over the moon, besides myself for example!

The world is your oyster is an idiom and it is certainly difficult to understand unless there is some context around it. We have examples below of when it would be used, and you can see that it the context of both the situation and the words help to give meaning to it.

World is your Oyster

Examples of “The World is Your Oyster” in Use.

Although “the world is your oyster” is a fairly common English idiom, it is not appropriate in all circumstances. As we mentioned it is meant to send best wishes at times of change, and to convey good luck for the future. We have some examples of its use in the table below.

SituationUsing the World is Your Oyster Examples.
Graduating UniversityWell done on your degree! the world is your oyster now!
Retiring from workNo more work, the world is really your oyster!
Unsure of next stepsYou can do anything you want, the world is your oyster.
Leaving a jobYou should take some time, with your experience the worlds’ your oyster!
Looking forwardI’m not worried about the future, the world is my oyster!
A significant birthdayThe world is your oyster now that you are an adult! Happy birthday.

Other English Idiom Examples

There are Hundreds, and hundreds! of idioms in english. Second language learners often think they are thrown in there just to give them a hard time but they have been developed from sayings and phrases all over the world and put into a language that has roots over 2000 years old!

Lots of idioms may stem from events in the past ( spanner in the works, ) some idioms may be more recent and modern… (it’s not rocket science)

Below you will find a list of 50 common idioms to help you get started…. however it’s just the tip of the iceberg ( 😉 that was number one )

Idiom ExampleExplanation of IdiomIdiom Sentence Examples
tip of the icebergjust the start, there is more to come or hidden. That problem is just the tip of the iceberg
Let the cat out of the bagto divulge a secret that wasn’t supposed to be known. you weren’t supposed to say that, now the cat is out of the bag.
Over the moonVery happy, delightedI just won the quiz, I am over the moon!
under the weathernot feeling very well, sickI will not be in work today, i am feeling under the weather.
on the balldoing well, focussedHe is doing well, always on the ball.
make a long story shortsave time and tell the short version Anyway, to make a long story short.
hit the sackto go to sleepI am so tired, i’m going to hit the sack.
piece of cakesomething very easyThe test was a piece of cake.
rain checkarrange to do something another time, postpone Can we do a rain check for dinner, something came up.
drop of a hatdo something now, straight awayI cant just do it at the drop of a hat.
time fliestime moves fastwow, look at the time, time flies when you are having fun.
perfect stormthe worst of all outcomesif that happens it will be a perfect storm at work tomorrow.
fish out of wateruncomfortable, out of placeWhen he went to the party he was like a fish out of water.
give the cold shoulderignore someoneshe is giving me the cold shoulder, i don’t know why.
on cloud ninevery happyi’m so happy I am on cloud nine.
ignorance is blissbetter not knowing somethingits better you don’t know, ignorance is bliss.
lend a handto help with something can you lend a hand, this is taking a long time.
a leg uptoo boost or help someone improve a situation I gave him a leg up with his school project.
Achilles heela weakness or weak spotwe have to find his achilles heel to defeat him.
on thin icea risky situationI’m on thin ice at school after i was naughty today.
apple of my eyea favourite or someone really lovedmy son is the apple of my eye.
spill the beansto tell a secret Come on spill the beans, i want to know.
the whole nine yardsto use and do everything possible. He really gave the whole nine yards at work today.
the ball is in your courtyour responsibility, your action to takeYou can tell me tomorrow, the ball is in your court now.
plenty more fish in the seato say there are many more choices. often romantici know its sad, but there are plenty more fish in the sea.
the elephant in the roomthe problem, or topic no one wants to discuss. Well if no one else will talk about it we need to talk about the elephant in the room.
sleep on itTake your time before a decision. Don’t make a rash decision, sleep on it and we can talk tomorrow.
fit as a fiddlevery healthyMy grandpa is as fit as a fiddle.
break the iceto start a conversationIm going over there to break the ice.
cut some slackto give someone a chance, the benefit of the doubtyou should cut her some slack, she is trying her best.
beat around the bushto avoid a topic of conversationStop beating around the bush, we need to talk about it.
sitting on the fenceavoid making a decision. You need to stop sitting on the fence and make a decision one way or the other.
let off the hookto escape punishment for an action. We let him off the hook at school today.
burn a bridgeunable to go back, have to continue onwardsWell you can’t go back, that bridge has been burnt.
comparing apples and orangescomparing two things that cant be compared, too very different items. It is like comparing apples and oranges.
pulling your legjoking, playing a trick, not being seriouscalm down, i’m only pulling your leg.
penny for your thoughtsused to ask what someone is thinking about You look worried, penny for your thoughts.
left in the darkunaware of what is happening, when other people areWhy am i always left in the dark
missed the boatmissed an opportunity. Well i missed the boat on that one!
the ship has sailedtoo late, opportunity has been lostYou cant go back to your job, that ship has sailed.
up in the airno decision has been made. The project is up in the air now, we need to plan again.
once in a blue moonA very rare occurrence. Dad paid for dinner! , that only happens once in a blue moon.
butterflies in my stomachfeel nervous, tummy feels like it is flipping around. I had butterflies in my stomach before my driving test.
draw the lineto set a limit on what is acceptablei am drawing the line here, don’t test me.
skin of your teethto just get away with something, a narrow escapethat car missed you by the skin of yoru teeth.
hold your horsesslow down and/or stophold your horses, we need a plan first.
go down in flamesto fail spectacular, usually in publicwell that idea went down in flames in the meeting.
chase rainbowsto have unrealistic dreams or expectations. he needs to stop chasing rainbows if he is going to succeed.
it costs an arm and a legAn prohibitively expensive itemI cant buy that car, it costs an arm and a leg.
a dime a dozenSomething of little value, very common.i don’t want that dress, they are a dime a dozen.


Hopefully this has given you an idea of where the world is your oyster idiom came from, and how we can use it today. As you can see from the list above there are hundreds of sayings we use in English that can confused second language learners.

We can only say keeping going, some of these idioms confuse native speakers just as much as second language learners so you need not worry too much.

The more you learn the better your English will get and then, the world is your oyster too. 😉

I have been a teacher of English for over 15 years, in that time i made hundreds and thousands of resources and learnt so much i think its worth sharing. Hopefully to help teachers and parents around the world.

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