The road to hell is paved with good intentions


      • good intentions leading to bad outcomes
        To describe situations where despite someone's good intentions, the result is still negative or harmful. It implies that good intentions alone are not enough to guarantee success or positive outcomes.

      • hypocrisy
        To criticize someone's actions or decisions by pointing out that their stated intentions were noble or good, but their behavior or outcome does not reflect that. This usage suggests that the person's actions were not aligned with their supposed good intentions.

      • warning against being overly optimistic
        To caution against blindly following one's good intentions without considering potential consequences or obstacles. It serves as a reminder that good intentions do not guarantee success, and one should be prepared for challenges and setbacks along the way.

    Examples of The road to hell is paved with good intentions

    • John had always been a well-meaning person, but his lack of follow-through had led him down a path of failure. He would start projects with the best of intentions, but somehow they always fell apart. His friends would say, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions," implying that John's good intentions were ultimately leading him to disastrous outcomes.

      This idiom is used to describe situations where people have the best of intentions but end up causing harm or failure. It originated from a line in the poem "The Way to Hell" by Scottish poet Robert Burns, who wrote, "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley," which means that even the most carefully planned schemes can go awry. The phrase "the road to hell" is often used metaphorically to describe a path to disaster or ruin, and "paved with good intentions" adds a layer of irony, as it suggests that people's good intentions can actually lead them down a destructive path.


    This idiom highlights the idea that good intentions are not enough to ensure positive outcomes. It can be used to describe situations where someone's good intentions do not lead to the desired result, or when someone's actions do not match their stated intentions. It serves as a warning against being overly optimistic and reminds us that good intentions must be accompanied by proper planning and action to achieve success.

    Origin of "The road to hell is paved with good intentions"

    The origin of this idiom is uncertain, but it is believed to have originated from a quote by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a 12th-century French abbot and theologian. The original quote is "Hell is full of good intentions or desires." This phrase was later popularized and evolved into the modern version of "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

    The phrase gained popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries and is now commonly used in everyday language. It is often attributed to Samuel Johnson, an English writer and critic, who used it in his book "The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia" published in 1759. However, there is no evidence that Johnson actually coined the phrase.

    This idiom has been used in various literary works, including the Bible, and has become a popular saying in many languages. It serves as a reminder that good intentions alone are not enough and that actions and outcomes are equally important.