Busman’s Holiday – Idiom Meaning, Origins & Examples

busmans holiday idiom meaning and examples, explained below

The idiom “Busman’s Holiday” refers to a situation where someone spends their free time or vacation doing the same or similar work to what they do in their regular job. It implies that even during a break, a person is engaged in activities reminiscent of their daily routine.

This idiom is often used to describe someone who, for instance, is a bus driver and spends their holiday driving or traveling. It can be applied to any profession where an individual chooses to engage in their professional activities during their leisure time.

For example, a chef who cooks on their day off or a writer who spends their vacation writing can be said to be on a “Busman’s Holiday.”

chrisAbout the Author: has a PhD in Education. He has been a teacher in schools and universities and has taught English as a Second Language in Colombia. He is former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.

Busman’s Holiday Idiom Origins

The term has its roots in the 20th-century British public transportation system, and saw its heyday between the 1920s and 1980s, before becoming less commonly used in the 1990s:

Here’s a brief overview of its origin:

  • Public Transportation in the UK: During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, bus drivers and conductors in the UK would often have a day off. However, because of the limited transportation options available, they would end up taking a ride on their own buses to reach their holiday destinations.
  • Engaging in Familiar Activities: The idea is that even on their day off, these busmen were still engaged in an activity closely related to their daily work – riding a bus. Over time, the phrase began to be used more broadly to describe anyone who spends their free time or holidays in a manner similar to their regular occupation.

The phrase remains relevant today, as many professionals choose to engage in activities related to their work even during their leisure time.

Examples in a Sentence

  • “The chef spent his weekend baking for fun; it was truly a Busman’s Holiday for him.”
  • “Even on vacation, she was researching for her next book – a real Busman’s Holiday.”
  • “The software developer spent his break coding a personal project; talk about a Busman’s Holiday.”
  • “He’s a teacher, and he spent his summer break tutoring. That sounds like a Busman’s Holiday to me.”
  • “The photographer went on a trip and spent the entire time taking photos – a classic Busman’s Holiday.”
  • “The fitness instructor went on vacation and ended up teaching yoga classes at the resort – talk about a Busman’s Holiday.”
  • “On his day off, the barber decided to give free haircuts at a local charity event. It was a Busman’s Holiday for sure.”
  • “The journalist, even while on a break, couldn’t resist attending the press conference. She’s truly on a Busman’s Holiday.”
  • “The gardener spent his weekend volunteering at the botanical garden. It seemed like a Busman’s Holiday to everyone.”
  • “The accountant, even during holidays, helps his family with their finances. He never really takes a break; it’s always a Busman’s Holiday for him.”

Practice Questions Worksheet for Students

Question 1: If a librarian spends her vacation reading books, what is she experiencing?

  • a) A tropical getaway
  • b) A Busman’s Holiday
  • c) A digital detox
  • d) A culinary adventure

Question 2: Which of the following situations best describes a Busman’s Holiday?

  • a) A swimmer going hiking.
  • b) A pilot flying a kite.
  • c) A singer attending a concert.
  • d) A painter visiting art galleries.

Question 3: If a doctor spends his free time attending medical seminars, what is he likely doing?

  • a) Taking a break from medicine
  • b) Experiencing a Busman’s Holiday
  • c) Pursuing a new career
  • d) Avoiding his responsibilities

Question 4: In which situation is someone NOT on a Busman’s Holiday?

  • a) A writer penning poems during a retreat.
  • b) A fisherman going fishing on a day off.
  • c) A dancer watching dance performances.
  • d) A baker going mountain climbing.

Similar Idioms

1. Take work home

Definition: To continue working outside of regular hours or location.

In a Sentence: “She always takes work home, never really switching off.”

2. All in a day’s work

Definition: Something is part of one’s normal routine or job.

In a Sentence: “Fixing bugs is all in a day’s work for a software engineer.”

3. Burn the candle at both ends

Definition: To work excessively hard by doing something late into the night and beginning again early in the morning.

In a Sentence: “Preparing for the launch, he was burning the candle at both ends.”

4. Work one’s fingers to the bone

Definition: To work extremely hard.

In a Sentence: “She worked her fingers to the bone to get the project done on time.”

5. Work like a dog

Definition: To work very hard.

In a Sentence: “He worked like a dog to meet the deadline.”

6. Put one’s nose to the grindstone

Definition: To work hard and continuously.

In a Sentence: “With exams coming up, she put her nose to the grindstone.”

7. Work one’s socks off

Definition: To work very hard.

In a Sentence: “He’s been working his socks off to make the event a success.”

8. Work overtime

Definition: To work beyond one’s scheduled hours.

In a Sentence: “The team worked overtime to finish the project.”

9. Pull an all-nighter

Definition: To stay up all night working on something.

In a Sentence: “She pulled an all-nighter to complete her thesis.”

10. Work the graveyard shift

Definition: To work during the late hours of the night.

In a Sentence: “He had to work the graveyard shift last week.”

11. Work round the clock

Definition: To work continuously, day and night.

In a Sentence: “The support team works round the clock to assist customers.”

12. Put in the hours

Definition: To dedicate a significant amount of time to a task.

In a Sentence: “He put in the hours and finally mastered the skill.”

13. Work one’s tail off

Definition: To work very hard.

In a Sentence: “She worked her tail off to get promoted.”

14. Break one’s back

Definition: To work extremely hard.

In a Sentence: “He broke his back to ensure the company’s success.”

15. Slave away

Definition: To work very hard with little or no recognition.

In a Sentence: “She slaved away in the kitchen all day preparing the feast.”

Scroll to Top