live by/on (one's) wits

(redirected from live by his wits)

live by/on (one's) wits

To survive or make a living through one's intellect and resourcefulness. When I lost everything, I had to live by my wits, and it made me a stronger, more savvy person.
See also: by, live, on, wit
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

live by one's wits

Fig. to survive by being clever. When you're in the kind of business I'm in, you have to live by your wits. John was orphaned at the age of ten and grew up living by his wits.
See also: by, live, wit
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

live by one's wits

Manage by clever expedience rather than hard work or wealth. For example, Alan's never held a steady job but manages to live by his wits. This expression uses wits in the sense of "keen mental faculties." [c. 1600]
See also: by, live, wit
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

live by your wits

earn money by clever and sometimes dishonest means, having no regular occupation.
See also: by, live, wit
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

live by/on your ˈwits

earn money by clever or sometimes dishonest means: Patrick did not go to college, as expected, but learned to live very successfully on his wits.
See also: by, live, on, wit
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
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References in classic literature ?
The white people who questioned the wisdom of starting this new school had in their minds pictures of what was called an educated Negro, with a high hat, imitation gold eye-glasses, a showy walking-stick, kid gloves, fancy boots, and what not--in a word, a man who was determined to live by his wits. It was difficult for these people to see how education would produce any other kind of a coloured man.
Although his pal Vic Haines also died and is buried in France, Ron was able to live by his wits. He swapped his flying gear for a scarecrow's rags, ate raw mushrooms and mixed water purification tablets into a yellow puddle on a cow track to quench his thirst until he made contact with a ploughing farmer.
Billy Young was an orphan who spent some of his childhood years in the markets of Sydney, and was quite a larrikin, skipping school and learning to live by his wits and cunning.
Raised by his eccentric and increasingly erratic father, Jack has learned to live by his wits. He outsmarts the local businessmen, out-argues the local priest, and even outplays a gang of hardened carnies at a seedy fairground.
The father, a captured Hungarian prisoner, had to live by his wits in a chess game.
Mark Ruffell, defending, said his client had been driven to crime by a 'cocktail of disorders' including a disturbed childhood, witnessing violence and suffering abuse before eventually being abandoned to 'live by his wits' at the age of 11.
Madame Griveau has an autistic child and a shady businessman husband who is forced to live by his wits.