Have you ever been told to “make hay while the sun shines”? What does that even mean? You might not even be a farmer! Why would you want to make hay? And what does sunshine have to do with it?

“Make hay while the sun shines” is an old saying that’s considered a proverb. A proverb is an old, usually short saying that communicates good advice or something true.

If you make hay while the sun shines, it means that you take advantage of the chance to do something while conditions are good. In other words, you make good use of your time or make the most of an opportunity while you have the chance.

The saying has been around for hundreds of years. It first appeared in 1546 in John Heywood’s A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue. Experts believe the phrase came from medieval English farmers.

Hundreds of years ago, it would take many days for farmers to cut, dry and gather hay. Today, it’s much easier to make hay because of our modern machinery and weather forecasting.

Since hay can be ruined easily if it gets too wet, medieval farmers had to take advantage of hot, dry, sunny weather to cut and gather hay. Thus, “make hay while the sun shines” was just a matter of common sense to them.

They eventually began to use the phrase generally to mean to take advantage of circumstances before the chance slips away.

This proverb, like so many others, offers good advice. Opportunities may only come along every so often.

It’s good to take stock of a situation and realize when an opportunity presents itself. If you can act on it before it slips away, you’ll have made hay while the sun shone!

A similar idea can be communicated by the Latin phrase carpe diem, which is usually translated as “seize the day.” Those who use this phrase stress that the future is uncertain.

Since one never knows what the future may hold, take advantage of those opportunities that present themselves today. Make every second count!


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  1. hmmmm…. I have never heard of that phrase before. I guess I learned something new today! I have definitely had many oportunities pass by. I think that it is interesting how an eleven year old can drive a tracter. It must be so much fun to be able to do that!!

    I think that tomorrow’s wonder is about why people draw fruit bowls. On tv, I usually see lots of people drawing those. Even my little sister entered in a drawing of a fruit bowl to an art contest.

    • We LOVE that you learned something new today, Meredith! We also LOVE that you always use your thinking cap to try and guess the next day’s Wonder! You are a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

    • Thanks so much for visiting Wonderopolis and leaving this GREAT comment, Cecile! We can’t wait to meet new Wonder Friends when your class visits in the fall! :-)

  2. Thanks, that was very interesting reading. I’ve used the saying many times but never knew how it got started.

    • Hi, Sheila! We’re glad you enjoyed today’s Wonder of the Day®! Thanks so much for hanging out in Wonderopolis today and for leaving a comment! :-)

  3. The video was of a child driving a tractor.

    Cool maybe? but the fact remains that children that run farm machinery have a high rate of injury. Extension Divisions often lecture the need for parents to be informed of this matter. With more information accidents can be avoided or prevented.

    • Hi, Rosie! Thanks so much for sharing this information with everyone in Wonderopolis! Safety is very important when operating farm machinery at any age, but especially when children are present and/or participating. We appreciate your concern and willingness to post this comment!

  4. Hello can I have the author name and date of publish of this article for my assignment. Thank in advance.

    • Hey there, Brandon, thanks for asking! It sounds like you’ve learned something new at Wonderopolis and we’re so glad to hear it! You can quote Wonderopolis as the author and the date: Jul 27, 2011.

      What is your assignment about, Brandon? :)

  5. Living on a farm is a family business. Children learn how to farm so they can help, to take over the farm when they are grown, or to start their own.

    This 11 year old boy was not driving the tractor on the road it was in the field someone else drove it home. A family member was walking beside the tractor. I am sure he practiced before the video.Children these days are mowing lawns on riding lawn mowers, riding on 4
    wheelers, and hunting at age 10 and younger.

    As long as they are mature enough, trained, and watched while they are driving a tractor I dont see the problem. And everything can have high chance of injury but I think this video shows a family teaching an 11 year old boy the proper use of a tractor. Great job!

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why do you say “make hay while the sun shines”?
  • What is a proverb?
  • How do you “seize the day”?

Wonder Gallery

hay bail_shutterstock_70126972Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to seize the moment? What opportunities are available to you today? Spend some time today thinking about how you can best make use of your time.

Even better, do some planning for the future. Can you come up with five ideas of things you could do to take advantage of these “opportunities”?

  • A rainy day
  • A cancelled school day because of snow
  • A rescheduled soccer game
  • A long drive in the car to a relative’s house
  • Waiting while your brother or sister sees the doctor

If you came up with some really good ideas for how best to use your time in these situations, email or send them to us. We’d love to share them with others!

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Louisville, KY 40202-4237


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