Comes a time for every tub to stand on its own bottom


Senior Member
Hello. On one website ( there was a saying "Comes a time for every tub to stand on its own bottom" which seems to mean that eventually, every person needs to be independent/self-sufficient. I am having problems, however, understanding the literal meaning of the expression. Does the tub refer to a bathtub? If so, does it normally not stand on its own bottom? Thank you.
  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    It seems this is an old saying or proverb, but I've never come across it before. I think it is more frequently used in AE, but I could be wrong.
    Every tub on its own bottom suggests that every person or entity in a group should be self-sufficient. This idiom, often abbreviated to ETOB, is common in academic speech to mean that each department or school should be responsible for raising its own funds. But the phrase goes back at least 400 years, when a tub meant the cask or barrel for wine. The metaphor of a tub on its own bottom appears in religious texts from the 1600s, referring to a foundation to which one should adhere
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