The phrase “the best of both worlds” is often overused, especially in contexts where it doesn’t fit. It evokes a clear image, so it’s easy to understand why we use it so often. However, to understand its real meaning, it’s necessary to look into its origin and history.
The origin of the phrase “the best of two worlds” isn’t clear since there’s no written record. The phrase may have originated from Voltaire’s Candide, published in the mid-18th century. However, Voltaire used the phrase: the best of all possible worlds. Another possible origin is the Bible.
In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss the meaning of “the best of both worlds” and its possible origins. I’ll also show you how to use it correctly in sample sentences and include some similar phrases.
What Does It Mean if Something Is the Best of Both Worlds?
The phrase “the best of both worlds” has been a part of the English lexicon for a few hundred years. However, its use increased dramatically in the last century or so. Unfortunately, many use the phrase incorrectly.
The phrase “the best of both worlds” describes a situation where you benefit from two opportunities that are usually opposed to each other. In this situation, there are no negative aspects to the situation.
The phrase also implies that these benefits don’t normally appear together. So, it refers to a situation where you normally have to sacrifice one benefit for the other but manage to get both without any sacrifice.
Here’s an example of a situation where this phrase might apply.
Imagine you’ve been out of a job for a few months, and you apply for a new job with better pay and perks. You get a call offering you the job, but you must relocate to another state.
However, you ask them about the possibility of working remotely. The company eventually agrees to let you work from home. In that sense, you can say you have the best of both worlds.
This situation allows you to take advantage of the job’s perks, like a regular salary and medical insurance. Meanwhile, you can also enjoy the benefits of staying at home, like spending time with your family and working on your own schedule.
Examples of the Phrase “The Best of Both Worlds”
Let’s see some common examples of sentences containing the phrase “the best of both worlds.”
- To have: Janet found a perfect job. On top of that, she works from home; she has the best of both worlds.
- To get: Mark and I got married at a destination wedding in Venice, and the cost of wedding supplies was much cheaper there. We got the best of both worlds with a beautiful destination wedding at a lower price.
- To be: My firm found great partners willing to share our financial debt. We get to reduce our workload and get financial help. It’s the best of both worlds.
- To want: John is looking for a house close to his job and his elderly parents so that he can work while still spending time with his family. He wants the best of both worlds.
Regardless of the verbs that introduce the phrase, it’s important that its wording stays the same because “the best of both worlds” is an idiom.
An idiom is a phrase that carries a certain meaning as a whole but only when placed in the same word order. The meaning of an idiom depends on the whole phrase rather than the individual meanings of each word.
Thus, idioms only make sense when used as a whole, without changing the order of words or replacing them. If you say, “it’s the most wonderful parts of both worlds,” it wouldn’t mean anything. It’s only when you use “the best of both worlds” that the meaning becomes clear.
History of the Phrase “The Best of Both Worlds”
Unfortunately, there are no records of the first use of this phrase. It first became popular in the 20th century, after which business marketing campaigns started using the phrase to promote their products and services.
There are generally two possible sources of the phrase “the best of both worlds.”
Christianity and other Abrahamic religions strongly emphasize the rewards of the afterlife if you behave well in this world. This ideology is the first possible origin of “the best of both worlds.”
According to these religions, there are three ‘worlds.’
Christian theology states that you’ll go to heaven if you’re a good Christian who does good deeds on Earth. This ideology is considered one of the founding principles behind the phrase “the best of both worlds.”
The idea is that you get ‘the best of both worlds’ by being a good person and then reaping the rewards of that behavior in Heaven.
You get the best of Earth by living an honorable life, which makes you loved and respected. Then you get the best of the afterlife, where you are rewarded for your deeds on Earth.
While the Bible doesn’t contain the exact phrase, many historians believe it originates from this basic principle of Christianity.
Another possible origin of the phrase “the best of both worlds” dates back to the 18th century. Some people believe that Voltaire came up with the phrase unintentionally. When he wrote his novella, Candide, he used a similar phrase: the best of all possible worlds.
As we can see in Voltaire’s phrase, we don’t have a reference to only two worlds but countless worlds. Thus, the symbolic meaning of the phrase differs slightly from “the best of both worlds.”
“The best of all worlds” means a completely successful situation, while “the best of both worlds” refers to benefits gained from seemingly opposing situations. In Voltaire’s version, there is no implication of opposing situations.
Modern Usage of “The Best of Both Worlds”
“The best of both worlds” is one of the most commonly used phrases today. Unlike many idioms, which are mostly used only in informal conversations, “the best of both worlds has made its way into formal contexts as well.
Many businesses and entrepreneurs use this phrase because of its positive meaning. For example, real estate agents may use this phrase to describe properties with multiple benefits and no drawbacks.
The phrase initially became popular due to its widespread use in advertising. Many marketers used “the best of both worlds” to promote their products, implying that these products have no downsides.
For example, in its 2019 ad campaign for the Super Bowl, Sprint used “the best of both worlds” to promote its phone plans. They claimed that customers could save more money by using their plans while still enjoying the benefits of a premium plan.
Similarly, American Airlines launched its partnership with British Airways with its ad campaign titled “Fly The Best of Both Worlds.” This campaign celebrated the similarities and differences between the companies’ different customer bases.
Phrases Similar to The Best of Both Worlds
Although some phrases are similar to “the best of both worlds,” none carry identical meanings.
Here are some phrases similar to “the best of both worlds.”
- Two for one: When you get two things for the price of one. It is often used in sales but can also refer to other situations.
- To kill two birds with one stone: Used when you accomplish multiple goals through one action.
- A win-win situation: a situation in which everyone involved in something benefits equally.
The phrase “the best of both worlds” describes a situation where you get two benefits of seemingly opposing situations without any negative implications. The exact origin of this phrase is unknown. However, there are two possible origins.
- Voltaire’s book Candide where he uses a similar phrase: best of all possible worlds
- Religious tradition from the Bible, where one world is life and the other the afterlife.
Today, the phrase is trendy in business and advertisements when promoting various products.
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary: The Best of Both Worlds
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary: The Best of All (Possible) Worlds
- Cambridge Dictionary: The Best of Both Worlds
- Ginger Software: The Best of Both Worlds
- Language Humanities: What Does the “Best of Both Worlds” Mean?
- Ludwig: The Best Of All Worlds: Meaning and History of an Idiom
- Stack Exchange: English Language & Usage: Alternative Colloquialism for “Best of Both Worlds”?
- Creative Works: American Airlines: The Best of Both Worlds by Studio Black Tomato
- AdAge: Sprint – The Best of Both Worlds