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What Does "Easy Come Easy Go" Mean?

By Cynde Gregory
Updated May 23, 2024
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In life, most things require effort. Nobody lands a job as a high-powered CEO without working up the ladder, learning the necessary skills, and kowtowing to the necessary people along the way. On the other hand, once in a while, something amazing and unexpected drops right into a person’s lap. If that unbelievable job or perfect guy vanishes as quickly as it arrived, the perfect response is “easy come easy go.”

The phrase plays with the paired verbs come and go and literally can be translated from slang into everyday English as “things that arrive too easily are as likely to depart as easily.” This idiom displays a kind of laissez faire attitude. Often, there is an unspoken quality that can be translated as “Oh, well,” as though the speaker is neither surprised nor unhappy to see the fortunate event or object turn tail and vanish.

Easy come easy go is often said with a tinge of irony, as well, as though something that comes easily isn’t really worth making the effort to hang onto. A young man who unexpectedly draws the momentary attention of a beautiful, young lady who fairly rapidly then turns around and dumps him might shrug and remark, “Easy come easy go.” The subtext in this case is that, other than her physical beauty, there wasn’t enough of value in the young woman to bother fighting for.

Younger people, especially, are given to using the phrase in a way that suggests the expectation that life will be full of opportunities that will arrive easily. When something presents itself and doesn’t work out, the phrase suggests that there’s no reason to get upset. It must means something even better will arrive a little bit down the line, equally unexpected but of greater value.

No one group of people is more likely to use the phrase than lottery winners. It’s well known that a very high percentage of people who strike it rich, coming into hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars due to nothing other than the literal luck of the draw, aren’t particularly good at working with that money to grow it or preserve it. The tendency is to spend it or give it away as quickly as possible. Once it’s gone, it might not be the lottery winner who remarks, “Easy come easy go,” but rather everyone around who watched lady luck drop into the winner’s lap and then hop right back out again.

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Discussion Comments
By giddion — On Jul 18, 2012

I think that everyone is bummed out when something leaves their grasp, unless that something was negative. I have actually had an “easy come, easy go” experience in which I was glad when the thing departed easily.

A cat showed up at my house one day, and it would not stop meowing. I don't like cats, and this one would not go away. It stayed there for two days before I finally broke down and gave it some food.

That made it hush for a little while, but what it really wanted was to come inside and play with me. I have bad allergies, so I wasn't about to let that happen.

As I was pondering over how to get rid of it, a car pulled up in my driveway. The lady got out and said that she had lost her cat, and I happily returned it to her. That was my happy little “easy come, easy go” adventure.

By OeKc05 — On Jul 17, 2012

@feasting – I agree with you. Your brother's “easy come, easy go” lyrics do sound like a desperate attempt to trivialize the monumental.

Most of the times that my friends have uttered this phrase, they have been in real pain over losing something. My best friend was given the job of her dreams by a relative, and she had been so excited about it. However, a month later, the company had to let several people go because of budget cuts, and since she was a new hire, she was among the ones cut.

We went out for a drink afterward, and at the beginning of the night, she said, “Well, easy come, easy go.” I could hear the pain in her voice, though, and several drinks later, she was sobbing uncontrollably about it.

By feasting — On Jul 17, 2012

@StarJo – It kind of makes you wonder if maybe your brother was hurting deep down inside and just didn't want to show it. I know that my brother always tried to brush off his breakups as painless little things, but I could tell that they really bothered him.

He even wrote a song about one girl with the lyrics, “Easy come, easy go,” being the focus of the tune. I think he was trying to convince himself that she really didn't mean that much to him, since he didn't have to work very hard to get her, and she slipped away so nonchalantly.

You might be surprised at the number of people who use this phrase and really mean the exact opposite. I think it's a macho thing, and men who refuse to cry sometimes refuse to admit that it was much more than “easy come, easy go.”

By StarJo — On Jul 16, 2012

I've often heard people use this phrase and stick the word “and” in place of the comma. My grandmother used to say, “Easy come and easy go,” to describe just about every one of my brother's failed relationships.

He was incredibly good looking, and because of that, he went through girlfriends like rolls of toilet paper. He never seemed brokenhearted after it was over, either, prompting my grandmother to use the phrase to comment on his lack of feeling, as well as the ease of the situation itself.

I've never heard anyone but her use the phrase with “and,” though. It seems that the commonly accepted way to say it is, “Easy come, easy go.”

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