Think the Better of – Meaning, Origins & Examples

think the better of meaning and examples, explained below

The idiom “think the better of” means to decide against doing something after further consideration.

This phrase is often used when someone initially thinks of an action or says something, but upon reflection, decides it might not be the best idea.

For example, someone might consider telling a secret but then “think the better of it” and keep it to themselves.

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.

Think the Better Of Idiom Origins

The origins of “think the better of” date back to Old English. In fact, it was more popular in the past than it is today.

Check out this historical data from Google, showing how often the term was used in the past 200+ years. This is a rare graph I’ve seen that shows an idiom decreasing rather than increasing in popularity since the early 1800s:

The term’s earliest known usage in literature can be traced back to the 16th century.

Here’s a brief overview of its origin:

  • Old English Roots: The word “better” in Old English (betra) was commonly used to compare quality, signifying something superior or of higher rank. This gave rise to phrases that indicated a higher or improved form of thinking or consideration.
  • Literary Usage: Over time, authors and playwrights began using the phrase “think the better of” to mean reconsidering an action or decision for a more favorable or prudent choice. The idea behind it was that after rethinking, the new decision was “better” than the original one.

In today’s context, if someone says they “thought the better of” a particular action, it means they reconsidered and chose not to proceed with that action.

The below chart from Google demonstrates that the phrase, while not as popular as some other idioms, still holds a place in modern language.

10 Examples in a Sentence

  • “I was going to skip the meeting, but I thought the better of it and attended.”
  • “She was about to send that angry email but thought the better of it.”
  • “Tom was going to buy the expensive car, but he thought the better of it after considering his budget.”
  • “She almost revealed the surprise but thought the better of it at the last moment.”
  • “I was going to confront him about it, but I thought the better of it and kept quiet.”
  • “He wanted to go out in the storm but thought the better of it after hearing the thunder.”
  • “She was about to try the risky stunt but thought the better of it.”
  • “I almost missed the deadline but thought the better of it and worked overtime.”
  • “He nearly accepted the dubious offer but thought the better of it after some research.”
  • “I was going to eat another slice of cake but thought the better of it considering my diet.”

Practice Questions Worksheet for Students

Question 1: If you consider taking a shortcut but then decide against it because it might be unsafe, you have:

  • a) Taken a risk
  • b) Made a snap decision
  • c) Thought the better of it
  • d) Acted impulsively

Question 2: Which of the following situations best describes someone thinking the better of something?

  • a) A student studying hard for an exam.
  • b) A person deciding not to invest in a risky venture after some research.
  • c) A child eagerly jumping into a pool.
  • d) A musician playing a fast-paced song.

Question 3: If someone says, “I wanted to comment, but I thought the better of it,” what did they decide?

  • a) To share their opinion loudly
  • b) To keep their thoughts to themselves
  • c) To write their opinion down
  • d) To discuss their thoughts with a friend

Question 4: In a debate, if you think the better of making a controversial statement, what have you done?

  • a) Stated your opinion boldly
  • b) Avoided the topic entirely
  • c) Chosen a safer line of argument
  • d) Agreed with the opposition

Similar Idioms

1. Second-guess

Definition: To reconsider a decision or action.

In a Sentence: “He always second-guesses his choices, making it hard for him to decide.”

2. Cold feet

Definition: To become nervous or anxious and reconsider a decision.

In a Sentence: “She got cold feet just before the performance.”

3. On the fence

Definition: Undecided about something.

In a Sentence: “He’s on the fence about which job offer to accept.”

4. Have reservations

Definition: To have doubts or concerns.

In a Sentence: “She has reservations about the new project’s feasibility.”

5. Double take

Definition: To re-examine something after an initial glance.

In a Sentence: “I did a double take when I saw the price tag.”

6. Think twice

Definition: To reconsider an action or decision.

In a Sentence: “You should think twice before making such a big commitment.”

7. Sleep on it

Definition: To take time to think about a decision.

In a Sentence: “Before you decide, sleep on it and let me know tomorrow.”

8. Mull over

Definition: To think deeply about something over a period of time.

In a Sentence: “He mulls over every decision, no matter how small.”

9. Chew on

Definition: To think about something for a while.

In a Sentence: “I need to chew on that idea before giving you an answer.”

10. Ponder

Definition: To think about something carefully.

In a Sentence: “She pondered the question for a long time before answering.”

11. Reflect on

Definition: To think deeply or carefully about something.

In a Sentence: “He reflected on his past mistakes and vowed to do better.”

12. Re-evaluate

Definition: To consider or examine something again.

In a Sentence: “It’s time to re-evaluate our strategies.”

13. Backpedal

Definition: To reverse one’s previous action or opinion.

In a Sentence: “After seeing the public’s reaction, the company backpedaled on its new policy.”

14. Rethink

Definition: To think about something again, especially in order to change a previous decision.

In a Sentence: “Given the new circumstances, we need to rethink our approach.”

15. Weigh up

Definition: To think carefully about the advantages or disadvantages of a situation before making a decision.

In a Sentence: “She weighed up the pros and cons before accepting the job offer.”

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