Definition of live by one's wits in English:

live by one's wits


  • Earn money by clever and sometimes dishonest means, having no regular employment.

    ‘he lived by his wits and was involved with many shady characters’
    • ‘They didn't kill anyone and lived by their wits.’
    • ‘As an impecunious artist myself, I have indeed had to learn to live by my wits, and by whatever sparse and sporadic income I can glean from my paintings.’
    • ‘Like a kid who has to live by his wits, but might get jumped any minute for being too smart for his own good, he knows the only strategy that's really going to save him in the end is authenticity and wisdom.’
    • ‘Mimes and jugglers swarmed among the tables, followed by young comedians with mirthless eyes, living by their wits, like dancing bears and philosophers.’
    • ‘With all due respect, sir, living by one's wits in the park suits me just fine.’
    • ‘I remained in Pittsburgh, memorizing every inch of it, and made some effort to continue going to school while living by my wits.’
    • ‘But as I was at the time (and for that matter at all times) living by my wits, with no secure academic position to fall back on, I swallowed hard and decided to follow my freelance fates.’
    • ‘During the next fifteen years he ‘worked’ in and around Queensland and New South Wales mainly living by his wits.’
    • ‘His background was much like that of his colleagues: poor, orphaned and living by his wits, he had enlisted.’
    • ‘‘If you ask what he does for a living, I have to answer that he lives by his wits’, the sociologist James Coleman once remarked.’