Where did the phrase “to sow one’s wild oats” come from and What does it mean?

The phrase “to sow one’s wild oats” means to indulge in dissipation, or to conduct oneself foolishly.

The saying has been common in its present sense for at least four hundred years, for a writer of that period speaks of young men at “that wilfull and unruly age, which lacketh rypenes and discretion, and (as wee save) hath not sowed all theyr wyeld Oates.”

The reference is to a genus of cereal grass, known as wild oat (Avena fatua), that flourishes throughout Europe. It is little more than a weed and is very difficult to eradicate.

The folly of sowing it comparable to the folly shown by young men who, thoughtlessly, commit an act or begin a practice the evil of which will be difficult to eradicate.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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