live by/on (one's) wits

(redirected from live by their 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

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

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

live by your wits

earn money by clever and sometimes dishonest means, having no regular occupation.
See also: by, live, wit

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
References in classic literature ?
Since this was true, we wanted to be careful not to education our students out of sympathy with agricultural life, so that they would be attracted from the country to the cities, and yield to the temptation of trying to live by their wits. We wanted to give them such an education as would fit a large proportion of them to be teachers, and at the same time cause them to return to the plantation districts and show the people there how to put new energy and new ideas into farming, as well as into the intellectual and moral and religious life of the people.
They may be defined as the gentlemen who live by their wits. They seem to prey upon the public in two battalions - that of the dandies and that of the military men.
They agree to stay away from home for at least as long it took to complete their traineeship " usually two or three years " plus a day, and to live by their wits, their trade and the generosity of strangers.
East London teenage brothers Cole and Reuben live by their wits. When doing a delivery to a pub, they come across runaway Trina who really needs help.
And those who did live by their wits also came to be known by the colloquial sobriquet of "knights of industry", the ironic point of which is that hard graft is not always a precondition of success, as proven by the idler members of the aristocracy for whom industry was a dirty word.
Forced to forage and live by their wits as they commit petty crimes, the boys make their lives more interesting when they accept a new partner, the adorable Latika, who smites 7-year-old Jamal to the quick.
They beg at tables and generally live by their wits.
The pseudo-subversive idea is that like hardcore rappers the football microphone men live by their wits and their words.
``Shipbuilding is short term by nature and yards have to live by their wits and they intend here to build a larger network of contractors and there should be development.'' The turnaround is having positive effects on the shop floor.
The role of Benny is pivotal to the plot which portrays the squalid lives of urchin children who live by their wits in the fictitious Addler's Alley, forced to earn a few pennies by their drunken parents by selling matches and carrying bags for street traders.
That's why today's financial policymakers have no choice but to live by their wits. In a sense, a Treasury Secretary is one of the main actors in an elaborate global financial "theater." Success stems less from one specific powerful policy act or speech than from an ongoing series of persuasive performances.