live by/on (one's) wits

(redirected from lived 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 periodicals archive ?
Thenceforth, it was not uncommon to apply the expression to sharpers and swindlers who lived by their wits and other people's money.
Geordies such as Coffee Johnny, Sawdust Jack, Joe the Rat and Doggy Tommy lived by their wits and scraped together a meagre living while still bringing their own brand of humour to local streets.
When on water, plantation tricksters became river rascals who lived by their wits and a multiplicity of illegal activities.
Some, like Robert Charles of New Orleans, lived by their wits on the fringes of society and went beyond "grinless compliance" to open defiance of white authority.
Goldy lives with two other men, and "all three impersonated females and lived by their wits.