What does the catch phrase mean: "the road to hell is paved with good intentions"?

Among the masses of winged phraseological combinations, there are those in which deep popular or philosophical wisdom is hidden. Their use in speech often seems ambiguous and can cause intellectual debate. Some catch phrase and phrasesThis type of sound may even have several sounding options, but at the same time preserve the same meaning. One of these phraseological units we will consider in this article. We learn its meaning, origin. And also consider how this phrase is used.

Value of expression

I had to hear the most unexpected interpretations of the phrase about good intentions that paved the way to hell. The point of view of such a plan sounds closest to the true meaning: some person is constantly going to do something useful, good, but things don’t go beyond these intentions - there is no time, opportunity, or turnover sticks.So these ideas remain and intentions, that is, they turn into unfinished good deeds. Each of them is a cobblestone in the said pavement leading to hell. Because if the planned good deeds are not done, there is a space for evil deeds, i.e. for sin.the road to hell is paved with good intentions

Often, good-natured intentions may not at all relate to a particular case in relation to another person — help, care, protect, and just become better yourself. These intentions are usually the most difficult. That is, you need not going to do and do.

The phrase “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” in the case when, trying to carry out some completely humane matter, a person achieves a completely opposite result, often with negative consequences.

Expression variations

The Russian language, like a living being, reacts sensitively to all sorts of changes and additions: words and their meanings change, familiar phraseological units begin to sound differently, now finding new meaning, then preserving the content, but “dressing” in a new verbal form.

The authors of popular expressions, perhaps, do not pretend to such a title, once having uttered a famous phrase in the future.So, the phrase about good intentions, leaving them and their "ultimate goal" in its composition, sometimes changes the verb form. Then the expression may sound like this: the road to hell is paved, lined, paved. From this value does not change.catch phrase and phrases

These intentions can be paved or paved and the road to hell, and the path to it, or hell is already they paved.

There are more interesting variations. One of them sounds like this: "For good intentions (good intentions), the path goes straight to hell."

The origin of the phrase and its variants

The history of popular expressions quite often sends us to different sources. Thus, according to one of the versions, the phrase about good intentions goes back to the maxim of the English writer Samuel Johnson, who once said: "Hell is paved with good intentions." This is mentioned by his biographer, the author of two-volume memoirs about the writer James Boswell.winged writers

However, there is another point of view, attributing the origin of this expression to an Anglican priest of the 17th century and the metaphysical poet George Herbert, for whom it sounds like this: "Hell is full of good intentions and desires." This quotation as if underlines the meaning of the utterance from the Bible contained in the Book of Jesus. It says: "The path of sinners is paved with stones, but at the end of it is the abyss of hell."

The second assumption is considered the most likely, since the author illustrates this phrase as one of the main points of Protestant ethics. Its essence is that true faith certainly leads to the creation of good works, and not dreams of them.

Expression use

Idiom "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" is often used not only in literature and journalism, but also in colloquial speech. You can also hear an abbreviated, “proverbial” version of it: “well-intentioned”, which implies the same ending with the same meaning.

As observations have shown, in the first, biblical sense, the expression is used no less often than in the "everyday". In the first case, the emphasis is on the fact that, according to the Apostle James, faith without works is dead, that is, unfulfilled intentions, no matter how good they may be, are the result of weak faith and block the road to salvation.sayings from the bible

This point of view is also very nice and quite reasonable. In this phrase, the word "unfulfilled" is missing, which should be before the word "intentions".

And in the everyday sense, it’s an eloquent view that when you raise a child, you try to do everything possible and impossible for him. From the most good intentions. A completely unworthy person can grow up.Therefore, before trying to do something "good", it would not be bad to figure out what is truly good for one person or another.


Concerning the phrase “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”, an interesting phenomenon is observed. A rather ancient dictum, and even having a religious connotation, suddenly found a synonym in the 20th century due to economic problems in Russia.history of catchwords

“We wanted the best, but it turned out, as always” - this expression of V.S. Chernomyrdin, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Russian Federation, acquired the synonymous meaning of the phrase about good intentions in that sense, which implies the desire to do a good deed, and the result turns out to be completely opposite to the expected . In this context, it was about the characteristics of the course of monetary reform in the country in 1993. The phrase soon became truly winged and is often used instead of "good intentions."


Winged phrases and expressions are born in the depths of life. The history of mankind is rich in many examples where seemingly good intentions led not only to opposite results, but also to tragedies. How many utopian ideas were inventeddeveloped revolutionary programs, organized parties, conducted some radical movements such as to improve the general life. As a result, there were crusades, and Bolshevism, and fascism, designed to bring "happiness", if not to all of humanity, then to the "programmed" nations or races.

And from the point of view of theology, the meaning of the saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” is that there are more good motives in life than the same deeds.

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