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Cheaters Never Prosper Meaning

Definition: If someone is successful at something because he cheated, he will ultimately pay for his deception.

The proverb cheaters never prosper simply means that those who gain an advantage at something by cheating will ultimately have to face the consequences of their actions.

This proverb is most commonly used in American English; the British English version is slightly altered. Though its exact etymology is unknown, it is thought this proverb, in various forms, has been popular since the 17th century.

Origin of Cheaters Never Prosper

It is unclear when and where this proverb originated. A phrase with a near identical meaning was first used in the 17th century in The Letters and Epigrams of Sir John Harington:

  • Treason doth never prosper, what’s the reason?

The first recorded use of this proverb was in Richard Parkinson’s A Tour in America in 1805,

  • It is a common saying in England, that “Cheating never thrives.”

There is little information on the first published instance of the full proverb as it reads today.

A slightly altered version of this proverb is cheats never prosper. This version is used in British English. Other proverbs in English, including honesty is the best policy and cheaters never win have similar meanings to this proverb.

Examples of Cheaters Never Prosper

The following conversation between a teacher and a student who has just been caught cheating illustrates the correct use of this phrase.

Teacher: Since I caught you cheating, you automatically fail the test.

Student: I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.

Teacher: You could have made a good grade if you didn’t cheat. Ever heard the saying “cheaters never prosper?”

More Examples

  • Maybe it’s true that cheaters never prosper, but sometimes the companies they work for do. –The Wall Street Journal


The English proverb cheaters never prosper means that people who cheat at something may enjoy short-term success, but they will face consequences for their dishonesty in the future.

This exact wording is most commonly used in American English with a slightly different phrasing existing in British English.

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