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
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
See also:
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. All three were fat and black, which made it easy" (34).