Out of the frying pan and into the fire

Example in use: “I was really bored in that change management project so I asked my boss to give me another task. He moved me to another project where I am expected to do all the work and you can’t believe how many hours overtime! Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire!”

Meaning: to move from a bad position to another bad or even worse one

Possible German equivalent: vom Regen in die Traufe

Possible origin: This is a proverb which appears in many forms across many languages but all with the same meaning of moving from a bad situation to one that is worse. Some examples are: Greek (2nd century), “out of the smoke into the flame”; Italian/Portuguese, “to fall from the frying pan into the coals”; Gaelic, “out of the caldron into the fire” although it seems that the English version might be a direct translation of the French “to leap from the frying pan into the fire”

It appears to have been recorded for the first time in English in the early 1500s by the famous social philosopher and friend to King Henry VIII, Sir Thomas More

This expression is popular in English today and is even the name given to the 6th chapter of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”. In fact, Bilbo exclaims, “Escaping goblins to be caught by wolves!” Somehow, “out of the frying pan and into the fire” seems to be much easier to understand its literal meaning as I don’t come across many wolves or goblins in my day to day. What about you?

fry/ fraɪ


Welcome again to our weekly series that hopes to go behind the scenes of some rather typical English expressions.