Knowing which side your bread is buttered on

How many times have you heard someone say, “I know which side my bread is buttered on”? Or perhaps used this metaphor in relation to someone else?

Did you ever wonder where that came from? My popular book, Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions has the answer to this and hundreds of other phrase origins. This is on page 320 to 321:

Knowing which side one’s bread is buttered on

This was passed down by John Heywood in A dialogue conteinying the number in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, 1546:

I knowe on whiche syde my breade is buttred.”

It means ‘I know where my loyalty lies. I realize who is responsible for my good fortune, and I will show that person or persons the greatest of respect.’ 


This 730 page tome has been called ‘remarkable’, ‘compelling’, ‘in-depth’ and ‘the best (book) of its kind’.

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3 thoughts on “Knowing which side your bread is buttered on

  1. Hi, I know what side my bread is buttered on and I thank Yahuah every day.I am from the clan of Sinclair in Scotland my ancestral home.

  2. Sorry, Mr. St. Clair, Cicero used that phrase to describe Brutus in 45 B.C. See Barry Strauss ‘ The Death of Caesar. ‘

    • Hello Louise. Thank you so much for your comment. This is exactly the type feedback I am looking for. I will certainly look into this. Note I stated that John Heygood ‘passed down’ the saying, not that he originated it. Any help appreciated!

      Stan St. Clair

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