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What Does the "Best of Both Worlds" Mean?

By Maggie Worth
Updated May 23, 2024
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The phrase "the best of both worlds" refers to an item or situation that offers the benefits of two disparate or competing items or situations, often without presenting the undesirable aspects of either. This can include physical items such as products, stores or lodgings, or intangible situations such as services, agreements or relationships. The phrase generally implies that the benefits in question do not normally appear in conjunction with one another.

The concept behind the phrase is often used in selling and marketing a product or service. For example, a hotel might advertise that it offers the services of a boutique hotel at the price of a chain hotel. The service and experience aspects are the most attractive benefit of boutique hotels, and the price point is one of the main attractions of a hotel chain, so this presents the potential buyer with an option that includes the best of both worlds.

Real estate agents and tourism boards also frequently present their locations as the best of both worlds, whether they use the actual phrase or merely demonstrate the concept. For example, a master-planned community might be shown to offer the proximity to shopping and dining typically present in a big city while also offering the green spaces and quiet often found in small towns. This takes the most valued aspects of each type of location and combines them into a third option.

In order for the phrase to be most effective, it must be used to describe benefits that are thought to be mutually exclusive, or at least rarely combined. For example, big cities may offer proximity to businesses, but are often associated with traffic and noise. Small towns may be peaceful, but may be inconveniently located in regard to shopping. An option that provides the benefits of both while simultaneously eliminating the less desirable aspects of each would be considered the best of both worlds.

While the origins of the term are unconfirmed, the phrase has been a part of English idioms since at least the late 1800s. It is thought to have evolved from the saying "the best of all possible worlds," which was used in Voltaire's novella Candide, published in 1759. This phrase was repeated often in literature for the next several decades. The relatively modern phrase "the best of both worlds" compares only two situations as opposed to the broader comparison implied by Voltaire and subsequent authors.

Eventually, the phrase became commonly used in its own right, both in everyday conversation and in pop culture. It now appears frequently in print, on television and in movies. The phrase has been the title of songs, books, television episodes and magazine articles.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Phaedrus — On Feb 27, 2014

@Buster29, I also think of that Van Halen song "Best of Both Worlds", sung by Sammy Hagar. It was more about a man finding his ideal woman and comparing her to an angel. He had the best that both Heaven and Earth could offer.

By Buster29 — On Feb 26, 2014

Having the best of both worlds was a main theme on the Disney Channel's "Hannah Montana" show. Miley Cyrus played a pop star named Hannah Montana who led a regular teenager's life when not on stage. Hannah's alter ego, also named Miley, could attend a regular school and have normal friends without being recognized. The show's opening credits and theme song pointed out she had the best of both worlds, since she had all of the fame and earnings of a pop star, but the lifestyle and down-to-earth experiences of a typical teen girl.

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