What Is The Opposite Of Curiosity Killed The Cat?


The phrase “curiosity killed the cat” originated from a line in a 1598 play called Every Man in His Humor by Ben Jonson. The exact line was “Care killed a Cat.” It was adapted by William Shakespeare for performance in 1601, where the line became “Care will kill a cat.” This early version seems to have meant that worry, not curiosity, could be harmful if taken too far. Over the years, the phrase evolved into “curiosity killed the cat” and became a common proverb warning of the dangers of unnecessary investigation or experimentation.1

The current form of the phrase became widespread in the early 20th century. One of the earliest uses of “curiosity killed the cat” in print is from a 1912 edition of The Boston Daily Globe newspaper. By the 1940s, the saying was commonly known and understood to mean satisfying one’s curiosity can lead a person into dangerous situations.


The phrase “curiosity killed the cat” is a proverb that warns about the dangers of unnecessary investigation or experimentation. It implies that being too curious and inquisitive can lead one into trouble. The saying serves as a cautionary reminder that some mysteries are best left unexplored.

This idiom uses the imagery of a cat’s proverbial nine lives being dangerously whisked away through excessive curiosity. It suggests that curiosity can be perilous if taken too far, leading to harm, danger, or even death for the curious. Just as unchecked curiosity could be fatal for a cat and its extra lives, so too can overzealous inquiry lead people astray.

The phrase employs a metaphor to advise against meddling into things that don’t concern you. While curiosity may seem harmless at first, sticking one’s nose where it doesn’t belong can have unexpected consequences. So the proverb counsels judiciousness – some stones are better left unturned. A bit of mystery can be a good thing.

In summary, “curiosity killed the cat” is a cautionary idiom warning of the inherent risks in exploring the unknown. It recommends the virtues of restraint and contentment in leaving some questions unanswered.


The phrase “curiosity killed the cat” is commonly used as a warning against being too curious or nosy. Here are some examples of how it is used:

When someone is asking a lot of probing questions:

“Hey, curiosity killed the cat you know. You might not want to dig too deep into this.”

When someone is going somewhere they shouldn’t or sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong:

“I wouldn’t go snooping around in the boss’s office if I were you. Remember, curiosity killed the cat.”

When cautioning someone against looking into something dangerous or illegal:

“You may not want to dig into the details of that business deal. Curiosity killed the cat, after all.”

When advising someone not to pry into the private affairs of others:

“It’s best not to ask about the details of John’s divorce. Curiosity killed the cat, so let’s change the subject.”


The phrase “curiosity killed the cat” has received criticism for discouraging curiosity, despite curiosity being an important human trait. Some argue the phrase promotes complacency and accepting the status quo without deeper investigation. As author Brian Tracy states, “Curiosity is the engine of achievement.” He argues suppressing curiosity leads to “a dull, boring, mediocre life” (source).

The main criticism is that the phrase can discourage exploratory behavior and actions driven by curiosity. Psychologist Todd Kashdan argues curiosity is essential for living a full life, and that the phrase implies dangerous outcomes for being curious, creating a barrier (source). Kashdan states that rewards of curiosity, such as creativity, meaning, and new relationships, outweigh the risks.

Overall, critics argue the phrase promotes closed-mindedness versus openness to new experiences. They believe downsides like looking foolish or disruptions to comfort zones are worthwhile tradeoffs for satisfying curiosity’s drive for novelty and knowledge.


The phrase “curiosity killed the cat” has received criticism over the years for discouraging curiosity and exploration. However, many have defended the merits of the saying.

Some note that the full version of the proverb is “curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back” (Source). This provides an important counterbalance, showing that while risky, curiosity can also lead to fulfillment and growth. As long as curiosity is balanced with proper caution, the rewards are worth the risks.

Others argue the phrase is not meant to be taken literally, but rather as a figurative warning about dangerous or unnecessary inquisitiveness (Source). Just as “look before you leap” does not ban jumping, this saying simply advises thoughtful consideration of consequences before acting on curiosity.

Some defend the phrase as a useful, if colorful, reminder that actions have risks as well as benefits. Unbridled curiosity without regard for safety can indeed be harmful. But context matters – harmless curiosity that enriches life is certainly not discouraged.

While language evolves over time, this common saying persists because it captures an important truth – curiosity is vital, but careless risk-taking without forethought invites unnecessary trouble. Its endurance indicates the phrase continues to resonate despite criticism.


There are several phrases that convey a similar meaning to “curiosity killed the cat.” According to Power Thesaurus, some alternatives include:

  • Care killed the cat
  • It’s best to mind one’s own business
  • Curiosity can be dangerous
  • Don’t try to dig up secrets

Additional substitutes shared by Leverage Edu are:

  • Look before you leap
  • Don’t be nosy
  • Ignorance is bliss
  • Some things are better left unknown

While the phrasing differs, all of these idioms warn about the potential dangers of unnecessary curiosity and prying.

Satisfaction Brought it Back

The original proverb “curiosity killed the cat” dates back to at least the early 1600s, but the rejoinder “but satisfaction brought it back” emerged much later. According to the Wikipedia article “Curiosity killed the cat,” the earliest published record of the longer phrase appeared in 1912 in a Washington Post article about food shopping trends. The article stated: “It is the same story with groceries. The more attractive their display the more strongly it whets the appetite and the sooner the shopper is back again. ‘Curiosity killed a cat’ and ‘satisfaction brought it back.'” (Wikipedia)

So while “curiosity killed the cat” had been around for centuries on its own, the longer phrase adding “satisfaction brought it back” emerged in the early 20th century. The rejoinder emphasizes that while curiosity may lead one into trouble at first, the satisfaction and benefits that result make the risk worthwhile. This fuller proverb provides a more nuanced perspective on curiosity – recognizing both its risks and rewards.

Positives of Curiosity

Curiosity often leads to exploration, learning, and meaningful growth despite potential risks. As the old adage goes “curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.” While caution is wise in dangerous situations, suppressing curiosity altogether can result in missed opportunities.

Research shows curiosity provides many benefits including better academic achievement, more creativity and innovation, reduced group conflict, and greater life satisfaction. According to the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, curiosity helps humans adapt and thrive in an ever-changing world. It motivates people to gain new skills and knowledge to handle uncertainty.

In the workplace, curiosity leads to fewer decision-making errors, more positive changes, and employee engagement (The Business Case for Curiosity, https://hbr.org/2018/09/the-business-case-for-curiosity). Managers who demonstrate curiosity and encourage it in others can boost collaboration, idea-sharing, and problem-solving.

While unrestrained curiosity can lead to poor choices, balancing it with wisdom safeguards the many benefits. As novelist Aldous Huxley stated, “The vast possibilities of our great future will become realities only if we make ourselves responsible for that future.” With responsibility and care, curiosity remains a valuable asset.

Curiosity in Education

Curiosity is a key driver in learning and education. Teachers can encourage curiosity in students in various ways:

Ask open-ended questions that don’t have one right answer. This promotes creative and critical thinking. For example, “Why do you think the character made that choice?” rather than “What choice did the character make?” (1)

Let students ask questions and don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.” Modeling curiosity and showing that learning is an ongoing process for everyone can inspire students’ curiosity. Follow up by helping them find answers. (2)

Incorporate inquiry-based learning through experiments, investigations, and research projects. Let students follow their interests instead of sticking to narrow lesson plans. (3)

Bring in items related to what you’re studying and let students interact with them. Unfamiliar, intriguing objects naturally spark curiosity and hands-on learning. (2)

Take students on virtual field trips through images, videos, and online tours. This exposure to new people, places, and ideas stimulates curiosity. (1)

Encourage intellectual risk-taking by making it safe for students to ask “bad” questions, test preliminary ideas, and make mistakes. This builds creative confidence. (3)

Make time for free play and open-ended activities with few set rules or right answers. Following their own curiosity helps students learn. (2)

(1) https://www.connectionsacademy.com/support/resources/article/5-strategies-to-inspire-curiosity-in-students/
(2) https://www.waldenu.edu/online-masters-programs/ms-in-education/resource/teaching-strategies-sparking-curiosity-in-learning
(3) https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/four_ways_to_inspire_humble_curiosity_in_your_students

Balancing Curiosity and Caution

While curiosity can lead to discovery and growth, unchecked curiosity can also lead to dangerous or unwise situations. It’s important to find a healthy balance between satisfying one’s curiosity and exercising caution.

Here are some tips for exploring your interests while still being careful:

  • Do your research beforehand to determine any risks or dangers associated with an activity or place.
  • Start small when trying something new and work your way up, rather than jumping into the deep end.
  • Bring someone you trust along to explore together or tell someone your plans.
  • Set boundaries and limits for yourself instead of indulging every impulse.
  • Pause and think before acting if a situation gives you pause or seems questionable.
  • Trust your instincts – if something feels unwise, unsafe or makes you uneasy, pay attention to that feeling.
  • Practice moderation and balance curiosity with your other responsibilities.

Balancing openness to new experiences with sensible precautions allows you to explore your interests while avoiding recklessness. Prioritizing safety along with growth enables rewarding discovery.

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