Idiom #5: A nest egg

This week’s idiom:

A nest egg


It is thought that this expression comes from the days before large batteries of laying hens were kept in cages in sheds. The farmer would place a porcelain or plastic artificial egg in each nest to encourage the hens to lay more eggs. I remember doing this on the farm where I grew up. I have no evidence that it actually worked in producing more eggs. To my way of thinking today, the hen will only lay an egg when she is well and truly ready. One cannot force the issue.


This expression has entered our language from that farming practice. Having “a nest egg” is to set aside some money as an investment for the future. Having such a sum is supposed to be an inducement to add to it, thus making the amount grow. Just like the false nest egg was meant to be an inducement for the hen to lay more, so too a nest egg of money was to encourage one to save more.

In today’s world of share portfolios, cash management funds, financial planners and the like this term is hardly ever used any more and seems quite quaint. One might only ever hear the elderly use this term, especially those who may have grown up during the Depression years of the 1930s.


“To save ten dollars a week from your pay would be a wise method of ensuring you have a little nest egg for the future,” advised Grandpa.

See also my article “What is an idiom?


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