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“Fortune favors the brave”: Meaning, Usage & Origin

“Fortune favors the brave”: Meaning, Usage & Origin

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Some proverbs and expressions become so popular that they end up being part and parcel of the language, adorning it and adding more flavor to conversations, sort of like flowers blossoming on a branching tree.

For instance, a couple of years ago, I was at a restaurant with a friend of mine when an old lady with a box sat at the table in front of us.

She put the box on the floor, ordered her food, and went to the restroom to wash her hands. As soon as she had left, the box started rustling, and you could hear something moving inside.

So, one of the waiters went over to peer into the box just to make sure that everything was fine.

The instant he opened one of the lids, a kitten sprang out of the box and latched onto the waiter’s face.

Fortunately, the woman came back just in time and gently took the kitten off the guy’s face. And, once everything had calmed down, she jokingly told him, “You should be more careful next time. Curiosity killed the cat.”

Her use of double entendre was so well-timed that everybody within earshot laughed.

Talk about the power of proverbs.

However, some idioms and expressions are so powerful and timeless that they not only survive for thousands of years, getting translated from one language to another and establishing themselves within different cultures, but they also get used as insignias, logos, and family crests.

One such case is the expression “Fortune favors the brave.”


What does “Fortune favors the brave” mean?

“Fortune favors the brave” refers to the fact that people need courage to get ahead in life. If anything, the proverb beseeches people to be brave and to face their fears. It also explains why the most successful among us tend to also be the bravest.


Why does fortune favor the brave?

There are several reasons this proverb holds true.

For starters, life rarely gives us everything we want, wrapped up in Christmas wrapping with a bow tie on top. Instead, it only presents us with opportunities, and it is up to us to make the most out of them.

No employer is going to come knocking on our door, telling us, “I was walking through your neighborhood and something told me that you’re the employee I’ve been looking for my entire life. Let me offer you the job of your dreams.”

(Sheesh, that dialogue is so bad and unrealistic that it wouldn’t make it into a C-grade movie, the type found at the bottom of the bargain bin at Walmart.)

So, if you don’t dare to take a swing when the ball gets thrown your way, you’ll never hit a home run.

All life will do is to let you know that there is a vacancy at the company you’ve always wanted to work for.

You’ll have to apply for the job yourself, and you have to make a strong argument as to why you deserve the job more than the other candidates.

Nevertheless, this is always easier said than done. It can be scary to take a swing. What if you miss? How will other people look at you? What does it say about you that you missed the ball? Does it mean that you are not good enough?

Every one of us is prone to have thoughts like these when life throws a fastball our way, and this is why it takes courage to put ourselves out there and take a swing.

Now, another reason fortune favors the brave is that some opportunities will never present themselves in the first place unless you put yourself out there.

For example, do you think people like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, or Mark Zuckerberg got to where they are today by playing it safe?

If you take the time to read Elon Musk’s biography- which I recommend because it is a good read- you’ll realize that there are countless moments in his life where he was willing to lay it all on the line and lose his entire fortune if need be.

Yet, today, he is the richest man alive.

Hence, some opportunities are only available to those brave risk-takers who are willing to face the odds.

Over and above, as any finance student knows, there is always a relation between risk and reward. The more risk you take on, the more of a reward you should expect.


How to use “fortune favors the brave”

Like any proverb, you should use it when the opportunity presents itself.

For instance, if you’re friend is thinking of quitting their job and starting their own practice, they might feel apprehensive about taking such a large step. So, you could tell them the following.

Look, you’ve been a company man for the past 15 years. It’s time you ventured out and took a chance on yourself. After all, fortune favors the brave.

On the other hand, let’s say another friend wants to ask for a promotion or a raise. You could give them the following advice.

You are one of the best employees they have, and if they don’t realize that, it’s their loss. Go for it. Fortune favors the brave.


Where does “fortune favors the brave” come from?

I started off by telling you that some proverbs jump cultural boundaries and get to live for eons.

Is “fortune favors the brave” one of those proverbs?

Yes, it is. It is actually a translation of an older Latin proverb which said, “audentes Fortuna iuvat.” As a matter of fact, the Latin version just given is just one of many other forms, all of which have the same meaning but are worded a bit differently.

You also have “Fortuna audaces iuvat,” “Fortuna adiuvat,” and “audentis Fortuna iuvat.”

You might have noticed that in every version of the proverb, “Fortuna” is capitalized.

The reason for this is that it refers to the Roman goddess of luck, Fortuna, and the idea is that when Fortuna smiles on a person, that person ends up getting lucky.

There are many recorded usages of this proverb in ancient times.


”Fortune favors the brave” in culture and usage

We also said that this proverb has had a significant impact on different cultures.

In Brazil, there is a special navy group called the Grumec, and their motto is “Fortuna Audaces Sequitur.” It translates to “Fortune follows the brave.”

In Italy, the University of Milano Bicocca has the quote “Audentes fortuna iuvat” in their logo.

In Portugal, the Portuguese Commando uses the motto “Audaces Fortuna Juvat.”