What Does “Patience Is a Virtue” Mean?

When you’re in a rush, the last thing you want is to be told to wait. But if you express enough agitation, you might hear the phrase “patience is a virtue” repeated at you by your elders or your friends. Even if you understand the definition of the individual words “patience” and “virtue”, you still might find yourself asking: “What does patience is a virtue mean?”

Patience Is a Virtue: Definition and Quick Summary

“Patience is a virtue” is a short phrase that means “waiting calmly is a good trait.” This proverbial phrase reminds the listener or reader about the societal and moral value of waiting to get what they want until a more convenient time.

When taken at face value, this phrase means that the listener should probably wait. However, in more complicated contexts, the phrase might be used to imply that people who are patient are inherently good, or even that waiting will increase the value of the thing that you have waited for.

It’s important to note that even if someone says “patience is a virtue,” they aren’t necessarily correct about that statement. Some situations require patience, but others require immediate action. Patience, like all other virtues, works best when it’s applied intelligently.

What Kind of Phrase Is “Patience Is a Virtue”?

The saying “patience is a virtue” is something that’s known as a proverb. Proverbs are short sayings or statements that express a culturally accepted truth. In this case, the English-language truth that is being expressed is that a willingness accept delayed gratification is a socially desirable trait.

The use of proverbs varies greatly by culture and region. “Patience is a virtue” is a Western proverb that is frequently used in English-speaking countries. You’re most likely to hear this phrase expressed in a religious or conservative area that frequently caters to old-world values and the idea of “virtues” as a way of establishing ethics.

Using “Patience Is a Virtue” in Conversation

Proverbs like “patience is a virtue” can often be used for several different purposes. Depending on the conversation, you might say this phrase in order to:

  • Ask someone to wait quietly for an item or event.
  • Remind someone that good things are coming in the future.
  • Praise someone for waiting even when it was inconvenient.
  • Express frustration over the fact that you have to wait.

People often say “patience is a virtue” to remind young people that waiting is a normally accepted part of adult behavior. If you hear this phrase, it probably means that your agitation is obvious and that it isn’t helping you fulfill your needs. It’s normal to hear that patience is a virtue when you’re waiting in line, thinking about an upcoming holiday, or wondering how your academic career will turn out.

Saying “patience is a virtue” to someone can also be a way to help them deal with the fact that their needs are being delayed. When you say this, you let them know that you recognize that they are putting their own desires aside for the sake of your project or the other people in the room. Virtue isn’t inherently rewarding on its own, but the praise and recognition of other people can often help you feel better about not getting what you want. When you admit that a person’s actions are virtuous, you make it clear that their needs haven’t been forgotten, even if they have been neglected.

When you first asked “what does patience is a virtue mean,” you expressed the desire to find out the definition of this proverb. However, unless you were already in front of a computer, you probably had to wait fulfill this desire until the situation you were currently in had passed. In this moment, you were asked to express patience. When you did, you were later rewarded by being able to look up the answer to your question without neglecting your other responsibilities. And now that you know how to use the phrase “patience is a virtue,” you can help others understand the value of waiting until later to get your reward.


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